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South African Ready For Research Variant-Specific Vaccine: Moderna

As it prevents some of the blocking action of antibodies that target the older coronavirus strain, the South African version is considered among the most harmful of current mutations.

US biotech company Moderna said Wednesday that doses were delivered to the US National Institutes of Health for testing of its new Covid-19 vaccine candidate aimed at the South African coronavirus variant.

"We look forward to the launch of our variant booster clinical trial and are thankful for the continued support of the NIH to fight this pandemic," said CEO Stephane Bancel.




As it prevents some of the blocking action of antibodies that target the older coronavirus strain, the South African version is considered among the most harmful of current mutations.

This suggests that individuals who have been infected with the classic strain are more vulnerable to reinfection, and testing has also shown that the variant has partially decreased the safety of the current vaccine generation.


Although initial research has shown that Moderna's original vaccine, called mRNA-1273, remains effective against emerging variants, as one of a variety of strategies being considered, the company said it was exploring the production of a variant-specific vaccine.

Either a variant-specific candidate from South Africa, named mRNA-1273.351, could be used as a booster, or the company could use a booster to produce a new product that blends the classic vaccine with variant-specific mRNA-1273.351.


Another suggestion is that a third dose of the classic vaccine should be given to individuals to improve their overall immunity.

Moderna is also investigating the possibility of using the mRNA-1273.351 variant-specific in South Africa or the combination shot as the primary dose.


On Monday, the US Food and Drug Administration reported that drug manufacturers that produce variant-specific vaccines would not have to go through the same lengthy authorization process for their initial shots that they had to go through.


Moderna also announced that it would expand its global production ability and, if required, would be able to manufacture up to 1.4 billion doses of its vaccine in 2022.

In addition, it said it was growing its 2021 production plan from 600 million doses to 700 million doses worldwide. So far, 60 million doses have been delivered by Moderna, 55 million inside the US.


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