Moderna’s COVID vaccine works in older people, according to new data

Moderna has said that its coronavirus vaccine stimulated an immune response in older people in phase 1 trials, suggesting that the jab is effective in the age groups most susceptible to COVID-19.

An analysis of the latest data from a phase 1 trial showed that in 20 older adults given the vaccine – ten between the ages of 56 and 70 and ten aged 71 and older – the vaccine produced neutralising antibodies and T-cells in comparable levels to those aged 18 to 55-years-old.

These antibody levels were also higher than those typically seen in people recovering from the virus, the company said.

There were also no serious adverse events reported. Some patients reported fatigue, chills, headaches and pain at the injection site, though the majority of symptoms resolved within two days. 

Each participant received two 100 microgram doses of the vaccine 28 days apart – the same dose used in the vaccine’s ongoing phase 3 trials.

Moderna said the results show that the vaccine works as well in older adults as it does in people aged 18 to 55-years-old.

Death rates from COVID-19 are much higher in older people, but often people in these age groups show smaller immune responses from vaccines than younger adults.

The company’s shares rose about 6% on the news.

Health officials had previously expressed concerns that Moderna’s phase 1 study was small and that results may differ for other populations, including older people. This analysis may allay those concerns.

The company has also noted that 18% of the participants enrolled in its phase 3 study are Black, Latino, Native American or Alaska Native – groups that are often underrepresented in clinical studies but have been hard-hit by COVID-19.

Moderna has received funding from the US government to expand its late-stage trial. The US has also bought 100 million doses of the mRNA vaccine for more than $1.5 billion – a deal that sparked controversy when the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen said that taxpayers were “paying twice” for the jab.

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