Biontech and Moderna vaccines work differently: what experts recommend

Biontech and Moderna vaccines work differently: what experts recommend

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Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna's mRNA vaccines trigger very different antibody responses in the body, a new study shows.  (archive image)
Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines trigger very different antibody responses in the body, a new study shows. (File image) © Patrick Pleul/dpa

A corona study shows that Moderna and Biontech’s mRNA vaccines differ in their effect. What recommendation do the experts derive from it.

Boston: The corona pandemic has caused a breakthrough in mRNA vaccines. Two of them are approved in numerous countries around the world as vaccines against the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus and the Covid-19 disease. But the mRNA vaccine is not just an mRNA vaccine, even if the design may be very similar. The Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work quite differently in the body, a study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine shows.

Both the Biontech BNT162b2 vaccine and the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine cause the body to produce large amounts of neutralizing antibodies that bind to the virus and prevent it from infecting cells. But the resulting antibodies differ depending on the vaccine. As an antibody reaction, the Biontech/Pfizer Corona vaccine leads mainly to the formation of a class of antibodies called IgG and IgM, which are often found in the blood.

Biontech’s corona vaccine triggers different antibodies than Moderna’s

Moderna’s vaccine, on the other hand, mainly produces IgA antibodies, which are more likely to be found on mucous membrane surfaces, for example in the respiratory tract, ie where corona infections usually start. The Moderna Corona vaccine also caused the formation of a relatively high concentration of antibodies, which activate immune cells to kill invading germs.

“MRNA vaccines elicit different types of immunity,” study co-author Galit Alter told MedPage Today. “This suggests that the immune system perceives them in slightly different ways. And we know that ‘different’ is incredibly important for training the immune system,” says the Harvard immunologist and virologist. Among other things, the researchers want to find out how corona vaccines should be further developed so that they remain effective against emerging variants, for example.

For the study, the antibody profiles of 73 people were determined approximately one month after the second dose of the vaccine. 28 of the participants had been vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine, 45 with the Biontech/Pfizer agent. Participants were mainly young, healthy female health workers, which is not representative of the population. However, the researchers are confident: “Despite these limitations, the data provide indications of possible nuanced differences in the quality of the humoral immune response triggered by Sars-CoV-2 mRNA vaccines,” they write in their study.

mRNA vaccines induce different types of immunity.

Corona vaccination: Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work differently

Both mRNA vaccines “would elicit robust functional humoral immune responses,” the study continues. But the slight antibody discrepancies could “provide insight into possible differences in the protective immunity of these vaccines,” the researchers conclude.

The researchers themselves point out a weakness in their study: “It is not clear whether the differences in the vaccine dose, the vaccination interval between the two doses, the modifications of the mRNA or the formulation of the lipid nanoparticles are responsible for the differences observed.” in vaccine profiles”. .” , the study continues. The Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are administered in different doses (Biontech: 30 micrograms, Moderna: 100 micrograms) and the recommended intervals between the first two vaccines are different.

My approach would be to use the opposite mRNA vaccine as a booster. You should definitely switch to the fourth vaccination if you haven’t already.

Practical relevance of the Corona study: Experts recommend “mixing and matching” when vaccinating

So there is still a lot for researchers to do. Meanwhile, US epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding is already suggesting on Twitter how the study results can be used in practice: “Maybe better to switch vaccines and cross-boost with another mRNA vaccine.” he writes on twitter with reference to the study.

Studies have previously seen that there was a greater antibody response when switching from Moderna to Biontech/Pfizer or vice versa; the response was even stronger when switching from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to mRNA vaccines. Feigl-Ding continues: “My approach would be to use the opposite mRNA vaccine as a booster. You should definitely switch to the fourth shot if you haven’t already.”

Researcher Christine Johnston, who herself published a study on different boosting strategies, agrees with MedPage Today: “It makes sense,” she explains, continuing: “If you stimulate slightly different parts of the immune system, you get better overall coverage in comparison with the version of Sars-CoV-2 that is in circulation or the variants that are emerging”. Study author Alter also agrees: “I think it’s a brilliant suggestion to get the best of both worlds.” (tab)