Moderna Says Vaccine Appears Effective Against New COVID-19 Variants, But Less So for One Strain

Moderna announced on Monday that its vaccine is resistant to the coronavirus variants identified for the first time in the UK and South Africa.

However, it may be less effective against the B1351 variant found in South Africa, according to studies conducted by the company, which is now developing an alternative version of the vaccine for booster shots.

“It’s clearly good news,” said Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force.

A booster shot being in development is not unexpected, he added, to ensure immunity against the evolving SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the B1351 variant.

Moderna’s latest findings, which have not been released publicly beyond a news release, are from a study conducted in collaboration with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Research showed no significant impact on the vaccine’s neutralizing power against the B117 variant first identified in the U.K., relative to prior variants.

However, for the B1351 variant, there was a six-fold reduction in neutralizing ability compared to use on prior variants, though the company said the levels remain above what are “expected to be protective.”

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement: “Due to caution and to capitalize on the versatility of the mRNA technology platform, we are developing a booster injection to combat the newly developed variant. identified in South Africa, “

Bogoch likened that approach to how vaccine manufacturers have long tackled the ever-evolving influenza virus.

“Every year, we update our influenza vaccine to really tie into what the circulating strain is,” he said. “Maybe it’s going to be every year or every few years, but we’ll likely have to update these vaccines periodically.”

Moderna Says Vaccine Appears Effective Against New COVID-19 Variants, But Less So for One Strain

Moderna announced on Monday that its vaccine is resistant to the coronavirus variants identified for the first time in the UK and South Africa.

However, it may be less effective against the B1351 variant found in South Africa, according to studies conducted by the company, which is now developing an alternative version of the vaccine for booster shots.

“It’s clearly good news,” said Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of Ontario’s vaccine distribution task force.

A booster shot being in development is not unexpected, he added, to ensure immunity against the evolving SARS-CoV-2 virus, including the B1351 variant.

Moderna’s latest findings, which have not been released publicly beyond a news release, are from a study conducted in collaboration with the Vaccine Research Center at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

Research showed no significant impact on the vaccine’s neutralizing power against the B117 variant first identified in the U.K., relative to prior variants.

However, for the B1351 variant, there was a six-fold reduction in neutralizing ability compared to use on prior variants, though the company said the levels remain above what are “expected to be protective.”

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement: “Due to caution and to capitalize on the versatility of the mRNA technology platform, we are developing a booster injection to combat the newly developed variant. identified in South Africa, “

Bogoch likened that approach to how vaccine manufacturers have long tackled the ever-evolving influenza virus.

“Every year, we update our influenza vaccine to really tie into what the circulating strain is,” he said. “Maybe it’s going to be every year or every few years, but we’ll likely have to update these vaccines periodically.”

The greater concern for scientists right now isn’t the current slate of known variants — which may be both more-transmissible and, in the case of B117, possibly more deadly — but those that could emerge in the future.

Given the widespread virus transmission and high case counts of COVID-19 in Canada and abroad, researchers say there are ample opportunities for the coronavirus to keep evolving, potentially developing variants that may one day evade current vaccines entirely.

There have been dozens of cases of variants confirmed in Canada in recent weeks despite limited surveillance, including at a Barrie, Ont., long-term care home where the B117 variant was reported in relation to a devastating outbreak that rapidly swept through the facility and has left at least 41 people dead.

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