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Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine appears effective against UK and South Africa variants

However, vaccine has a six-fold reduction in neutralising antibodies against SA strain

Moderna has announced that its COVID-19 vaccine appears effective against new coronavirus variants discovered in the UK and South Africa (SA).

The in vitro studies used blood samples from individuals immunised with Moderna’s vaccine and exposed to the new variants, to determine if the jab could still offer protection.

According to Moderna, the results were promising – vaccination with its COVID-19 vaccine produced neutralising antibodies against both the UK and SA variants, known as B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 respectively.

In this early laboratory study, researchers observed no significant impact on antibodies with the UK variant, relative to prior variants.

However, Moderna noted that there was a six-fold reduction in neutralising antibodies observed with the B.1.351 strain, although the company added that the levels induced by its vaccine should still offer protection.

Vaccine developers, as well as COVID-19 drugmakers, have been rushing to test their respective candidates against the new strains.

The B.1.1.7 variant, first discovered in the UK, is believed to spread more quickly and easily compared to the original SARS-CoV-2 strain.

The SA variant, B.1.351, is thought to be more transmissible and has also been linked to higher viral load in infected individuals.

After observing a reduction in antibodies against the SA variant in its preliminary studies, Moderna said that it will be advancing a booster candidate against this particular strain.

The company is also testing an additional booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine, to evaluate whether this could further increase neutralising antibodies against emerging strains.

“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 this new data, which reinforces 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,” he added.

Last week, Pfizer/BioNTech announced results from a laboratory study of their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, which found that the jab is likely to protect against the UK strain.

BioNTech is also planning to publish an additional analysis of the vaccine's efficacy against the coronavirus strain identified in South Africa.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

26th January 2021

From: Research

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