Change Edition

Moderna vaccine works against Covid variants, says company

Moderna vaccine works against Covid variants, says company

2 min. 25.01.2021 From our online archive
However, producer of jab plans human studies of booster shot, amid concerns over lower immunity against South African strain
Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Pharmaceutical company Moderna has said its vaccine will protect against two known variants of the Covid-19 vaccine, but it plans to start human studies of a booster shot for a strain from South Africa that may cause immunity to wane more quickly.

In laboratory tests, Moderna’s vaccine produced antibody protection against the strain first identified in the UK, known as B.1.1.7, at levels comparable with older versions of the virus. But against the South Africa variant, known as B.1.351, the neutralising antibodies produced were six-fold lower, the company said in a statement.

Despite that decrease, Moderna’s vaccine should protect against either strain, according to the company.

While the South Africa variant hasn’t been seen in the US, the UK mutation, which British officials said last week may be deadlier than earlier forms of the disease, is spreading rapidly among Americans. Both strains are thought to be more transmissible than the original version of the virus.

“We expect that whatever immunity you get over time will wane, the question is will it wane faster if you have lower levels to begin with,” said Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, in an interview.

Moderna shares gained as much as 12.5% in New York trading, the biggest intraday gain since Decenber 1. Over the past 12 months, the company’s stock price has soared more than 500%.

The results came from tests Moderna conducted with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. While the shot produced neutralising antibodies above levels that protect monkeys, the new studies will determine if that holds true with humans.

Booster plans

In the upcoming study, Moderna plans to give people who have already received two doses of its current vaccine a booster shot against the South African variant after six to twelve months. Researchers would then measure whether the booster led to higher levels of infection-thwarting antibodies.

Additionally, Moderna plans to test a booster shot of its existing vaccine in people, the company said in a statement. The exact timing and design of these trials hasn’t yet been determined, Zaks said.

It isn’t clear yet how often people might need booster shots, he added. It’s possible that annual booster shots could be needed, just as they are for influenza. But Zaks said it’s also possible that a single booster shot could protect people for a long time.

“We don’t know that yet,” he said. “Our job is to prepare for every eventuality that may occur.”

On Monday, top US infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci said he’s concerned about the ability of vaccines to protect against new variants of the coronavirus and that drugmakers may need to tweak their shots to address new mutations.

“There seems to be considerable more threat to vaccine efficacy, even though the cushion of efficacy is sound enough that the vaccines we’re using now will be good against both the mutant in South Africa as well as those in the UK,” Fauci said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

The Luxembourg Times has a new LinkedIn page, follow us here! Get the Luxembourg Times delivered to your inbox twice a day. Sign up for your free newsletters here.

More on this topic