Updated Covid vaccine was effective against highly mutated variant in clinical trials

The newest COVID-19 variant isn't as scary as it seemed at first, and fall booster shots should protect against it and other variants circulating now, new data suggests.

The updated Covid booster shot is about to become available and is formulated to target XBB.1.5, an omicron subvariant but is being shown to be effective against the other new variants, including the newer omicron sub-variant BA.2.86  and sub-variants EG.5 (aka “Eris”) and FL.1.5.1, which are currently dominating in the U.S. and make up an estimated 36% of new cases. Pfizer will release its testing data soon as well followed by their new vaccine.

USA Today reports that “in a clinical trial, the updated vaccine generated a nearly ninefold increase in neutralizing antibodies against the BA.2.86 variant, according to data released early Tuesday from vaccine maker Moderna. Although extremely rare in the United States, the new variant has a number of mutations in the spike protein targeted by vaccines, which made experts worry that shots and previous infections wouldn’t be protective.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously said the BA.2.86 strain, also known as “Pirola,” may be more capable of escaping antibodies from earlier infections and vaccinations, but new research also suggests that the variant may be less immune-evasive than feared. CNBC

“The upcoming COVID-19 booster is expected to be available in the United States as early as next week — potentially as soon as Sept. 13 — and is expected to protect against severe disease and death from currently circulating variants. First, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize or approve the shots, which they have signaled they are likely to do within the next seven days. Next, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent panel of advisors is set to meet on Sept. 12 to provide a recommendation on who will be eligible for the shots. The CDC director is expected to sign off, with shots to be available soon after.” ABC

Those who have had Covid, should wait three months from the day they developed symptoms or tested positive, according to the CDC.

Covid hospitalizations jumped 18.8% during the week ending Aug. 19, and 87% over the past month, according to the latest data from the CDC. But those metrics remain below levels seen when a surge strained hospitals last summer.