MODERNA says its vaccine does protect against "deadlier mutant Covid strains" – as they trial new booster to fend off future variants.
It comes after several variants emerged globally, with the company warning their current jab could be less effective against the new strain.
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Lab tests have shown the Covid-19 vaccine does work against the variant, dubbed 501.V2, but trials are taking place to develop a new shot to be safe.
Moderna previously warned the antibody response was much lower than the original strain, meaning immunity could be lessened.
Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said: “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 these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants.
“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.”
The new form of vaccine could be used as a booster shot to fully protect against the rampant strain.
The variant, which is more easily spread, has been detected in 77 coronavirus cases in the UK so far.
Today scientists said they had done some analysis on data in South Africa, finding “a hint of increased mortality”.
But they cautioned there has not been detailed research into the mortality of the South African variant, as there has been with the Kent one, so they cannot be confident in the finding.
Speaking at a virtual Science Media Centre briefing today, Nervtag member Prof John Edmunds, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “In terms of looking at the other variants, we have done some analysis on the South African variant.
“There may be a hint of increased mortality. But we haven't been able to control… this is just doing analysis from a long way away.
“First of all, it's just a hint. Secondly, that is just looking at it very crudely, rather than what we've done here in the UK where we have matched people very carefully, with the new strain.
Vaccines available to the UK
THE UK government placed orders for seven different vaccines – totalling more than 300 million jabs
- AstraZeneca/Oxford university – 100 million doses – Approved
- Pfizer/BioNTech – 40 million doses – Approved
- Moderna – 17 million doses – Approved
- Janssen – 30 million doses – Phase 3 trials
- Novavax – 60 million doses – Phase 3 trials
- Valneva – 60 million doses – Phase 1/2 trials
- GSK/Sanofi – 60 million doses – Phase 1/2 trials
“That's the kind of study that has to be done to determine if there is an increased risk of death associated with the South African or Brazil variants, and that has not been done as far as I am aware. I've seen no data at all along those lines.”
The UK Government has purchased 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine – enough to vaccinate 8.5 million people, but the first doses are not expected to arrive in the country until the spring.
It comes days after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said there was "evidence in the public domain" that the new variant is more resistant to jabs, but cautioned that scientists are still carrying out tests.
He made the remarks during a web chat with travel agents this week, in which he explained that tough border restrictions may be needed for a long time to keep new variants of the virus out of the UK.
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