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Moderna set to test new booster shot that targets South African variant

“Moderna is committed to making as many updates to our vaccine as necessary until the pandemic is under control,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.

There is no evidence yet to suggest that the coronavirus has mutated in a way that makes it able to evade the existing vaccines, but the prospect remains a serious concern for scientists around the world.

Early studies found that Moderna’s vaccine was less protective against the South African variant, but the company said the observed level of neutralizing antibodies — which can bind to viruses and block them from getting into cells — stayed above protective levels.

Still, the preliminary findings prompted Moderna to begin tweaking its vaccine to make it more effective against the South African variant and other known strains of the virus, including one that was first reported in the United Kingdom and another that is thought to have emerged in Brazil.

Cases of the U.K. variant have been reported in more than 80 countries and in more than half of the states in the U.S. The South African strain has been detected in at least 40 countries, including the U.S.

Moderna has already begun tests using a third dose of its vaccine as a booster shot in people who have already received two doses, but it will now start clinical trials to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of its variant-specific booster. The company will also test a “multivalent booster candidate” that combines its original vaccine with the variant-specific version into a single dose.

As part of the new trials, Moderna will evaluate the immune responses in people who are already vaccinated, as well as in participants who are receiving vaccine shots for the first time.

Denise Chow is a reporter for NBC News Science focused on general science and climate change.

Category: Science

Source: NBC

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