A leading prototype Covid vaccine has been found to offer elderly patients as much protection from the virus as younger test subjects. Moderna’s shot, named mRNA-1273, was found to produce similar amounts of antibodies in subjects aged 71 and older as younger subjects in the lower risk 18-55 age bracket.
Researchers from Moderna, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, were reassured by the findings, because immunity generally decreases with age, putting older coronavirus patients at greater risk of serious Covid-19 side effects. Around one in 10 coronavirus patients aged 80 and older end up dying of the disease.
Scientists gave two differently-sized doses of mRNA-1273 – 25 micrograms and 100 micrograms – to 40 volunteers aged 56 to 70 and 71 and older. The findings showed that the group given the 100mg dose in two injections 28 days apart produced similar levels of antibodies to younger test subjects.
The vaccine is now in final stage three trials, which will see it given to thousands of volunteers to ensure that it is safe.
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Side effects of the trial, shared in the New England Journal of Medicine, included headaches, fatigue, body aches and chills, with most people experiencing only mild-to-moderate issues.
At least two volunteers had more severe side effects, including a serious fever and fatigue so extreme they were unable to complete their usual daily activities.
Lead researcher Dr Evan Anderson, from Emory University in Atlanta, said: ‘This is similar to what a lot of older adults are going to experience with the high dose influenza vaccine. They might feel off or have a fever.’
Norman Hulme, 65, was among those who volunteered to take the vaccine, and received a lower-sized dose. He said: ‘I really had no side effects at all.’
Hulme offered himself up as a guinea pig after watching news footage of Covid-19 sweeping the US.
The virus has so far infected more than 7.1million Americans, and killed 206,000.
Vaccine development itself has become heavily politicized and controversial, with Donald Trump accused of trying to rush a shot out ahead of the November 3 presidential election to boost his chances of winning.
Multiple manufacturers across the world are in late-stage vaccine developments in an attempt to produce more than one successful vaccine and increase availability.
Scientists and manufacturers have said that date is over-ambitious, and have vowed to release a safe vaccine by early 2021.
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