Pfizer, BioNTech report bivalent Covid-19 booster more protective than original vaccine

New data from Pfizer and BioNTech on their bivalent Covid-19 vaccine suggests the updated product may be more protective against more recent Omicron subvariants than the original version of the vaccine, the companies said in a statement released Friday.

The companies said the levels of neutralizing antibodies that target the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were four-fold higher in people aged 55 and older who received the bivalent booster than in similarly aged people who received a monovalent booster.

The bivalent, which was given an emergency use authorization at the end of August, targets both the original version of the SARS-2 virus and the BA.4/BA.5 variants. Recently BA.5 has been the dominant strain in the United States, but an alphabet soup of newer subvariants — BA.4.6, BQ.1.1 among them — is starting to crowd it out.

The new data from the companies only looks at what getting the the booster did to antibody levels in recipients. The trial did not test whether people who received the updated boosters were less likely to contract Covid than people who received one of the older boosters.

“These data demonstrate that our BA.4/BA.5-adapted bivalent vaccine works as conceptually planned in providing stronger protection against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages,” Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, said in the statement. “In the next step and as part of our science-based approach, we will continue to evaluate the cross-neutralization of the adapted vaccine against new variants and sublineages. Our aim is to provide broader immunity against Covid-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2, including Omicron and other circulating strains.”

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