American biotechnology firm, Moderna Inc. on Monday announced that it is launching a trial of a new Covid-19 vaccine as it warned that its current shot was less effective in tackling the strain that emerged in South Africa.
Moderna said it is accelerating work on a covid booster shot to guard against the recently discovered variant in South Africa.
According to the company, Laboratory tests show Moderna’s Covid-19 jab still works against the variant named 501Y.V2, which emerged in South Africa, and B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in the UK.
It however warned that the neutralising antibody response to 501Y.V2 was sixfold lower compared to the original variant, raising concerns that immunity to it may wane significantly, particularly in older people.
“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.
What you should know
On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House health advisor said that new data had shown that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective against new and more contagious strains of the coronavirus.
Also, a team of researchers working with South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases stated that the 501Y.V2 shows substantial or complete escape from neutralising antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma.
According to reports by South African researchers, the 501Y.V2 variant is 50% more infectious than previous ones. It has already spread to at least 20 countries since being reported by the World Health Organisation in late December.
Meanwhile, the total confirmed cases of the virus is currently at 99.85 million with over 2 million deaths worldwide.