health

Moderna confirms vaccine works against UK and South African Covid-19 strains


T

he Moderna coronavirus vaccine, due to arrive in the UK in the spring, is effective against all emerging mutations of the virus that have been detected to date, the company has announced.     

Scientists behind the vaccine said it will protect against the new strain first detected in south east England which has shown to be more transmissible than the previous variant, and may be more deadly.

It’s the first company to test an additional booster shot of its authorised vaccine in trials to see if it boosts antibody reaction against the South Africa variant. The current regimen is for two shots four weeks apart.

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna chief executive, said was preparing for a worst-case scenario but had “zero concerns” about the vaccine’s efficacy in the coming months. 

“If something needs to be done in the summer, we’ll do something, but we cannot be late,” he told the Financial Times. “We don’t want the virus to win, we want the human race to win.” 

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.

Mr Bancel added: “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 (antibodies) against this and potentially future variants.”

The MHRA gave approval after “rigorous clinical trials” involving tens of thousands of people and an “extensive analysis” of the vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness, the Government said.

The company said it plans to publish data from its tests against the South African and UK variants on the website bioRxiv.



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