What's two times zero?
Moderna says its new Covid mRNA booster makes twice the Omicron antibodies. Think DAYS of extra protection. Yay! Also, what's with the post-booster death Moderna went out of its way not to mention?
This morning Moderna spun results from a 900-person trial testing its “variant-specific” Covid booster jab as a big positive. The usual media outlets that have failed to ask a single tough question about mRNA shots in 18 months agreed.
But reading the trial findings, as opposed to Moderna’s press release about them, offers a very different picture. The trial makes clear that tinkering with booster design does not change the core problem with the mRNA shots, which is that the antibodies the jabs produce do not last.
Worse, page 49 of the 53-page report reveals one person in the trial died after receiving a booster dose. Moderna did not discuss the death or offer any details about it anywhere else in the report - or anywhere in its its press release this morning about the trial. In fact, earlier in the report, Moderna incorrectly said that “there were no fatal events” in the trial.
Well, no fatal events except for the death that occurred after someone received a 50-microgram booster dose, leading to a “study discontinuation.” (Death makes testing for antibodies difficult.)
SOURCE (See report page 49, PDF page 51)
How did the patient die, was there any possibility the death might be related to the injection, and why did Moderna’s investigators not mention it elsewhere in the report?
Your guess is as good as mine.
The report also shows once again that side effects for mRNA shots rise along with dosing. Moderna also tested a 100-microgram dose of the booster, but people who received that dose had considerably worse side effects than those who received a 50-microgram shot. About 15 percent of the patients who received the larger booster reported severe side effects, including 1 person who had a fever over 104 degrees, compared to 11 percent of those who received the smaller dose.
(Subscribe now! I’m not the only journalist who actually reads these studies cover to cover to tell you what they really say. Or maybe I am?)
Back to business:
The report spends considerably more time praising the booster’s efficacy against the Omicron variant. Moderna actually designed the booster - technically called m1273.211 - against the now-extinct Beta variant. It contains an equal mixture of mRNA designed against the original coronavirus spike and the Beta variant.
But people who received it did show an increase in antibodies that worked against Omicron as well as the Beta variant. The increase was about twice as large as those who received 50 micrograms of a booster that was only designed against the original spike.
In the short run, those extra antibodies might lead to better production against infection or severe disease. MIGHT. Recent Israeli data showed that people who received a SECOND booster and had very high levels of antibodies had very little extra protection against Omicron infection even in the short run. Those findings suggest that “in vivo” - that is, in actual living people - Omicron seems to evade antibodies that stop it in laboratory tests.
As importantly, the report showed that the “variant-specific” protection did not last. Antibodies against Omicron declined just as fast in people who had received the special new booster as those who received the original. Within six months, they were again approaching zero.
None of this bothered the New York Times, which cheerily told the world exactly what Moderna hoped it would:
But Moderna’s chest-pounding did not fool Wall Street, which is looking at the mRNA vaccines with increasing skepticism. On a strongly positive day for stocks, Moderna is down more than 3 percent and again approaching its one-year lows.
Looks like some investors got to page 49 after all:
The ones that will still wear masks on airplanes will be the first in line for any new booster.
Here’s their next reformulation:
"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."