Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against variants found in UK, South Africa

Company developing booster shot for South African strain
Virus Outbreak New Jersey Vaccine
Posted at 9:02 AM, Jan 25, 2021

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Moderna announced Monday that a study found its COVID-19 vaccine appears to protect against the new coronavirus variants.

The biotechnology company said in a press release that its vaccine was as effective against the strain from the United Kingdom as it was against the original strain, which was found to be about 94.1% effective after two doses.

However, when it came to the strain identified in South Africa, the study showed a six-fold reduction in antibodies against that variant. Still, despite the reduction, Moderna says the neutralizing antibodies generated by its vaccine “remain above levels that are expected to be protective.”

Out of an abundance of caution, Moderna says it’s launching a clinical program to boost immunity to the emerging variants.

To proactively address the pandemic as the virus evolves, the company says it will test an additional booster dose of its vaccine to study the ability to further increase neutralizing antibodies against emerging strains beyond the existing primary vaccination series.

Secondly, the company says it’s advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant identified in South Africa. The booster will be advanced into preclinical studies and a Phase 1 study in the U.S. will evaluate the immunological benefit of boosting with strain-specific spike proteins.

Moderna expects that its mRNA-based booster vaccine will be able to further boost neutralizing antibodies in combination with all of the leading vaccine candidates.

“As we seek to defeat the COVID-19 virus, which has created a worldwide pandemic, we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves. We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna. “Out of an abundance of caution and leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa into the clinic to determine if it will be more effective to boost titers against this and potentially future variants.”