Moderna says vaccine protects against virus variants, introducing booster shot

Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Miss., Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, Pool)

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (NewsNation Now) — Moderna’s vaccine is effective against emerging variants of coronavirus that have appeared in the United Kingdom and South Africa, the company announced Monday.

The two-dose vaccine regimen produces the virus-neutralizing antibodies needed to fight off the variants, according to testing done by Moderna. The company first said it would be testing the vaccine’s efficiency against variants in December.

Moderna, however, said it would test a vaccine booster and an altered booster against the South African variant in pre-clinical trials to see if that would be more effective in boosting antibodies against the variant and other future variants. While the vaccine is protective against the strains detected to date, it seemed less effective against the South African variant.

Although all viruses mutate constantly, scientists are concerned about the mutations discovered in Britain and South Africa because they are believed to be capable of altering key functions of the virus.

“As we seek to defeat the COVID-19 virus, which has created a worldwide pandemic, we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves. We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants,” said Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO. “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 was the second vaccine granted FDA emergency authorization in the United States in December. Nearly 10 million Moderna vaccines have been administered as of Monday according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, more than 41 million vaccine doses have been distributed across the country with 21 million doses administered.

President Joe Biden has signed multiple pandemic-related executive orders aimed at jump-starting his national COVID-19 strategy to increase vaccinations and testing. Biden’s administration has set a goal of 100 million shots administered in his first 100 days in office.

You can read the full press release from Moderna below:

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