The US biotech company is planning trials of a booster vaccine against the viral strain first discovered in South Africa as a precaution.
US-based biotech company Moderna has said it believes its COVID-19 vaccine is effective against newer variants of the virus, although it will test a new booster vaccine targeting the strain discovered in South Africa. South after tests showed that the antibody response could be reduced. .
Moderna said in a press release Monday that the move was due to “an abundance of caution” after preliminary lab tests suggested her injection produced a weaker immune response to this variant.
“We are encouraged by this new data, which strengthens our confidence that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine should be protective against these new variants detected,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna.
“As a precaution and taking advantage of the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing a new variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa in the clinic to determine whether it will be more effective to increase headlines against this and potentially future variants. “
Vaccine makers have tested their vaccines against the mutated strains, including two that first appeared in the UK and South Africa. To study the effect of the existing vaccine, called mRNA-1273, Moderna took blood samples from eight people who had received two doses of the vaccine and two primates who were also immune.
For the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the UK, there was no impact on the level of neutralizing antibodies – which bind to the virus and prevent it from invading human cells – which were produced by the injections.
But for the South African variant, B.1.351, there was a six-fold reduction in the level of neutralizing antibodies.
Even so, it remained above the amount that was found to be protective in previous tests on purposefully infected primates.
The company, which conducted the studies with the National Institutes of Health, submitted the study to a pre-print server so that it could be analyzed by the wider scientific community.
Dr Paul Offit, an infectious disease expert at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s vaccine advisory committee, said he was only slightly concerned that the vaccine would not protect against the variants, the Reuters news agency reported.
“It’s a little worrying that you see a lesser neutralizing antibody response, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not protected,” he said, noting that even these lower levels may still be enough to protect against serious infections.
“The purpose of this vaccine is to keep you out of the hospital and to keep you out of the morgue. If you have an asymptomatic infection or a mildly symptomatic infection that is not a burden on the health system, ”said Offit.