Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines works safely in older people data suggests

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine safely triggers ‘high levels’ of antibodies in older people that may protect them against COVID-19, early data shows

  • Moderna tested low- and high-dose versions of its coronavirus vaccine in 40 volunteers ages 56 to 71 
  • All participants developed antibodies to the highly-contagious virus 
  • Levels of the immune proteins were higher than those seen in survivors’ plasma and comparable to levels seen in younger trial participants 
  • Only one participant had a ‘serious’ reaction and lost their appetite briefly, but the shot was deemed safe overall  

Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine triggered a strong antibody response in older adults, and only triggered ‘severe’ side effects in one volunteer, new data from the firm’s phase 2 testing shows. 

Two doses of the shot were given to each of about 40 volunteers, ages 56 to 71. 

All of the patients enrolled to the the study developed ‘neutralizing’ antibodies to coronavirus – the kinds of immune cells thought to be most capable of shutting down the virus and stopping it from infecting our cells. 

About 80 percent of people who have died of coronavirus are older, making the safety of any vaccines against COVID-19 in aging populations paramount. 

With the election just over a month away, and President Trump promoting the possibility of a vaccine being given emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), concerns are rising over the safety of COVID-19 shots.

Overall, the older trial participants had only mild to moderate reactions to the two injections – mostly side effects like soreness, headache or fatigue – suggesting that at least one candidate coronavirus vaccine appears safe for those who need it most. 

Moderna’s jab triggered a strong antibody response in older trial participants and caused only mild side effects in most, new data revealed Tuesday (file) 

One group of trial participants got two injections of a lower dose coronavirus vaccine, and the other got two shots of a higher dose vaccine. 

Regardless of which strength they got, all participants had an antibody response. 

Injections were given 28 days apart, and following the second dose, the trial organizers at Emory University in Georgia said that the older volunteers bodies’ produced comparable levels of antibodies to those seen in the younger group (aged 18-55). 

They showed hearty signs of both binding and neutralizing antibodies, suggesting that there were plenty of the immune cells designed to block SARS-CoV-2, and they would have no problem latching onto the viral particles. 

Additionally, the volunteers’ blood was rich in T cells and important inflammatory proteins, indicating that the overall immune response was in working order. 

That’s especially encouraging because vaccines do not have a great track record in older people generally. 

Charts from the Moderna study show that volunteers’ bodies produced multiple types of immune cells in response to the experimental vaccine doses 

Like the rest of the body, the immune system starts to slow down and become less precise as we age.  

It’s a process called immunosenescence. Scientists don’t fully understand this degradation process, but have observed that immune B cells become more lethargic and faulty. 

B cells are an important target for vaccines, because they are responsible for producing antibodies, the bespoke immune cells that fight individual pathogens after we’ve encountered them or after our body has been taught to chun them out by a vaccine. 

In the odler trial participants, the researchers saw that two doses of vaccine triggered a larger output of antibodies than the infection itself had in COVID-19 survivors, as measured by sampling their plasma. 

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