The United States based pharma company and the developer of one of the few Covid-19 vaccines that have gained wide approval – Moderna, has said that it is striving to speed up work for developing a booster dose of the vaccine which will act as a safeguard for the new variant of the novel coronavirus that has emerged from South Africa.
While saying that it believed, based on some study results, that its vaccine was apparently quite effective against the two highly transmissible strains found in the United Kingdom and South Africa, Moderna said that the efficacy was apparently lower in the case of the South African variant of the virus.
According to the results of a Moderna study conducted in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, an antibody response against multiple variants, including B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, which were initially detected in the UK and South Africa, had been generated by the two doses of its current vaccine that is available.
The results of the study have however not been peer reviewed yet.
The company however said that weaker response in terms of generating antibodies was noticed for the South African strain. But the company also clarified that the level of antibodies produced were well above the levels that are expected for creating a protection system against the virus. It also said that the results of the study indicated that there was “a potential risk of earlier waning of immunity to the new B.1.351 strains.”
“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,” Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement.
Following the announcement by the company, its shares surged by almost 4 per cent.
The Covid-19 vaccines that are currently available on the market might not be effective enough to provide protection to humans against the new and more contagious strains of the coronavirus based on new data that had come up, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci had said on Thursday.
There were indications that the South Africa variant of the virus can evade the antibodies provided by some coronavirus treatments according to some early findings that were published in the preprint server bioRxiv.
Moderna’s vaccine has been authorised for usage on people over 18 years of age in many countries including the US.
Messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology is used to generate antibodies against the virus in Moderna’s vaccine, like Pfizer’s. This technology and approach is a new one in which an immune response is provoked using genetic material. The vaccine showed an efficacy rate of more than 94 per cent after the release of late-stage clinical trial data that were published in November. Data also showed that it was safe to use.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)