(HealthDay News) — Moderna Inc.’s updated COVID-19 vaccine produces a “strong” immune response against the BA.2.86 SARS-CoV-2 variant, according to Moderna President Stephen Hoge, MD.

The vaccine, which is pending approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, generated an 8.7-fold increase in neutralizing antibodies against BA.2.86, according to a news release from Moderna.

“These results demonstrate that our updated COVID-19 vaccine generates a strong human immune response against the highly mutated BA.2.86 variant,” Dr Hoge said. “Taken together with our previously communicated results showing a similarly effective response against EG.5 and FL.1.5.1 variants, these data confirm that our updated COVID-19 vaccine will continue to be an important tool for protection as we head into the fall vaccination season.”

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Public health officials are closely watching the BA.2.86 variant, which has more than 30 mutations compared with earlier omicron variants. Scientists, including those in China and Sweden, have said the variant appears to be less concerning than initially thought.

So far, BA.2.86 has spread to the United States and 10 other countries. Denmark has reported the most sequences. In all, about 3 dozen sequences have been seen in a global repository during the past month, CNN reported.

In China, researchers determined that BA.2.86 looks different to the immune system than earlier SARS-CoV-2 variants and can escape some immunity, CNN reported. Among the findings was a 2-fold drop in the ability of vaccination and recent infection to neutralize BA.2.86, compared with viruses from XBB.1.5, Yunlong Cao from the Biomedical Innovation Center at Peking University, told CNN. However, BA.2.86 was also 60% less infectious than XBB.1.5 variants.

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