Moderna has stated yesterday that their existing vaccine is working against the new, highly contagious strains of the virus found in the UK and South Africa, according to their preliminary research. The UK strain that was first detected in September shows to be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain of the virus. Stephen Hoge, the president of Modernas said, “The virus is changing its stripes, and we will change to make sure we can beat the virus where it’s going,”. The study has not been peer-reviewed yet.
Does The Moderna Vaccine Work Against The South African Virus?
The vaccine that is given to patients in two doses appears to produce antibodies against several variants of the virus, including B.1.1.7 that was identified in the UK, and B.1.351 identified in South Africa. The participants in the trial showed a weaker immune response against the South African variant and while Moderna said the number of antibodies will likely protect one against the virus, it also shows “a potential risk of the earlier waning of immunity to the new B.1.351 strains.”, as reported by CNBC.
Moderna’s Stock Soaring Despite The Lower Immunity Against the South Africa Variant
A virus expert, Prof Lawrence Young said that the lower immunity against the South Africa variant is concerning. Having said that, Moderna’s shares have sored up by more than 10% after they announced the news of working on the two new variants of the vaccine and the preliminary data showing a good immune response to the UK variant.
Moderna Announces Work On Two New Vaccines?
Research by Moderna showed that the existing vaccine left antibodies that were six times less likely to fight the South African variant, as compared to the original strain. Thus, the company announced they will start two new studies exploring two different options. The first one is supplementing the existing vaccine with an extra jab. Another one is a new vaccine that is specific to the South African variant of Covid-19. “We’re doing it today to be ahead of the curve, should we need to,” the chief medical officer of Moderna, Dr. Tal Zaks, said in an interview. “I think of it as an insurance policy I don’t know if we need it, and I hope we don’t,” he added.
“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,” Stephane Bancel of Moderna said in a statement on Monday.
Dr.Fauci Concerned About The Effectiveness Of The Vaccines
Moderna’s announcements come just days after the White House health advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday that the Covid-19 vaccines that are currently on the market may not be as effective against the more contagious strains of the virus that are likely appearing simultaneously in many places around the globe. Earlier in January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the highly transmissible U.K strain of the virus could be the dominating one in the United States by March.
Is Pfizer-BioNTech Also Effective Against The New Variants?
Pfizer-BioNTech said their vaccine was also effective against the new variants but just as Moderna, they confirmed that it does not produce a strong immune response against the South Africa variant of the virus. The Chief executive of BioNTech, Dr. Ugur Sahin, said that they could have the newly adjusted vaccine against the new strain of the virus ready in approximately 6 weeks.
Pfizer/BioNTech In The Process Of Talks With Regulators
However, the company is currently in the process of talking to regulators about the clinical trials needed to approve the new version of the vaccine that would focus on the South Africa variant. The Food and Drug Administration has not revealed what the approval policy for updated vaccines will look like. However, scientists question whether the adjusted vaccines should go through the same lengthy process of approval that their original vaccinations went through. The main concern is how time-consuming the authorization process is and how it conflicts with the main point of the updated vaccine – a rapid response to the new strains.
“The more people infected, the more likely that we will see new variants,” said Dr. Michel Nussenzweig, an immunologist from Rockefeller University in New York. “If we give the virus a chance to do its worst, it will.”