Moderna developing booster shot against COVID-19 variant found in South Africa


Moderna is developing a new form of its COVID-19 vaccine that could be used as a booster shot to specifically target a variant of the coronavirus first discovered in South Africa, The New York Times reports. 

The drugmaker said Jan. 25 that its current vaccine is effective against both the variants discovered in the U.K. and South Africa, but it appears to be less effective against the South African variant in a preliminary study.

The study included blood samples from eight people who were given the full two doses of Moderna's vaccine, as well as two monkeys that were vaccinated. The variant discovered in the U.K. had no effect on the level of antibodies found in the blood, but the variant discovered in South Africa showed a sixfold reduction in antibodies, the Times reported. 

Moderna said even after the reduction, the antibody levels "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," and the booster shot is being developed as an "insurance policy," Tak Zaks, MD, PhD,  Moderna's chief medical officer told the Times

"We’re doing it today to be ahead of the curve should we need to," Dr. Zaks said. "I don’t know if we need it, and I hope we don’t."

Dr. Zaks told the Times that the booster shot could be given one year after getting the original two doses of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine. 

Moderna took 42 days to develop the original vaccine, and Dr. Zaks said he believes the company could make the booster shot "hopefully a little faster this time, but not much," according to the Times

Moderna will start a phase 1 study of the booster shot within a couple of months, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

"In the event that this virus continues to mutate in this direction, and a year from now is still circulating in some way, we think it’s prudent that we have tools like a booster vaccine to address that," Moderna's president, Stephen Hoge, MD, told the Journal.

"We may have to begin thinking about this like influenza vaccines and start rolling out regular annual vaccinations" with modified vaccines that target different strains, Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told the Journal.

More articles on pharmacy:
Merck abandons its 2 COVID-19 vaccine candidates
FDA approves first monthly injectable to treat HIV
Amazon, Seattle health system create vaccination pop-up site


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