Moderna announced on Wednesday that early trials show promising evidence that a booster shot of its vaccine offers increased protection and immunity against COVID-19 variants circulating around the world, including those first discovered in South Africa and Brazil.
The company is also studying another new experimental vaccine candidate to fight the latest strains of the virus and the original ones.
The boosters were given to volunteers who had previously taken Moderna’s original COVID-19 regimen, consisting of two doses. The booster shots were also shown to increase antibodies against the COVID-19 viral strain that first started making its way around the world early in 2020.
The trial consisted of 40 participants that tested the existing vaccine as well as another version that Moderna developed to offer protection against the South African variant, known as mRNA-1273.351. The South African coronavirus variant is considered to be one of the more lethal versions of the COVID-19 virus. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company is also looking to combine the existing vaccine and the newer version that offers more extensive protection.
The trial’s results have shown that either version increases antibodies against all variants tested in the trial. But, the newer booster showed a larger response against the South African version of the virus.
Concerning the newer variants of the COVID-19 virus, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said, “We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that our booster strategy should be protective.”
According to Moderna, both boosters were tolerated well by the trial’s participants and had similar side effects to those experienced in previous studies with the second vaccine dose.
It is thought that the Brazilian and South African variants are more resistant to the existing vaccine supply. While both variants are circulating in the U.S., they are believed to comprise a small fraction of the COVID-19 cases in the U.S. to this date.
Moderna is studying the level of antibodies in each volunteer’s blood. Adequate levels of antibodies are one indication that they have protection against the virus. The drug company will soon share more data on the newer booster that will offer more comprehensive protection against multiple variants.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is also conducting its own separate study of mRNA-1273.351.