Moderna Inc. said its vaccine will protect against two known variants of the Covid-19 virus, but it plans to start human studies of a booster shot for a strain from South Africa that may cause immunity to wane more quickly.
In laboratory tests, Moderna’s vaccine produced antibody protection against the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the U.K. at levels comparable with older forms of the virus. But against the South Africa variant, known as B.1.351, the neutralizing antibodies produced were six-fold lower, the company said in a statement.
Despite that gap, Moderna’s shot should protect against either strain, according to the company. While the South Africa variant hasn’t been seen in the U.S., the U.K. mutation -- which British officials said last week may be deadlier -- is spreading rapidly among Americans. Both strains are thought to be more transmissible than the original virus.
“We expect that whatever immunity you get over time will wane. The question is will it wane faster if you have lower levels to begin with,” said Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, in an interview.
It’s a game of whack-a-mole as the virus iterates faster than vaccines are currently being produced. The challenge with a global pandemic is no two countries deploy the same response. Even between households the approach to social distancing varies widely. With news today that California has its very own new strain, similar to the UK’s, the drive to speed up both production and rollout of vaccines will become even more urgent. Meanwhile, the Israeli experience with a national rollout offers a test case for how effective, the Pfizer vaccine in particular is.Click HERE to subscribe to Fuller Treacy Money Back to top