An experimental new Moderna vaccine candidate has been found to ‘neutralise’ Brazil and South Africa coronavirus variant, Moderna Inc claim.
Latest trials also found a third dose of either its current Covid-19 shot or the experimental new vaccine candidate increases immunity against both variants.
The booster shots, given to volunteers previously inoculated with Moderna’s two-dose vaccine regimen, also boosted antibodies against the original version of Covid-19, Moderna said.
The early data comes from a 40-person trial testing both Moderna’s existing shot and a version developed to protect against the South African variant of Covid-19 called mRNA-1273.351.
Two weeks after the new jab, Moderna says both the booster shot and the tweaked vaccine increased the antibodies in the blood that can neutralise the two variants of concern.
Stephane Bancel, chief executive of Moderna, said: “As we seek to defeat the ongoing pandemic, we remain committed to being proactive as the virus evolves.
“We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that our booster strategy should be protective against these newly detected variants.
“The strong and rapid boost in titers to levels above primary vaccination also clearly demonstrates the ability of mRNA-1273 to induce immune memory.
“Our mRNA platform allows for rapid design of vaccine candidates that incorporate key virus mutations, potentially allowing for faster development of future alternative variant-matched vaccines should they be needed.
“We look forward to sharing data on our multivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.211, which combines mRNA-1273 and mRNA-1273.351 in a single vaccine, when available.”
In the UK, ministers, health chiefs and Government scientists are stepping up preparations for an autumn booster vaccination campaign to protect against a third wave of coronavirus.
Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said scientists are looking at a range of options, including new jabs to protect against variants or mixing the types of injections given, so if a patient had AstraZeneca for their initial doses they could be given Pfizer as a booster.
“We want them to be able, if they need to, from September onwards to boost those that are most vulnerable,” Mr Zahawi said.
The Government has already ordered 60 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine in preparation for a booster campaign.
Mr Zahawi told Sky News: “Pfizer is one option, we’re going to give them an AstraZeneca option, we’re working with the team on a vaccine variant.
“Clinicians haven’t yet made the decision when they will need to boost, whether to give more immunity to the most vulnerable, to increase the durability of the protection or to deal with the variant.
“When they decide, I want to give them as much optionality, as many vaccines that were, then they will make those choices.”
England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam is conducting a clinical trial to look at “which vaccine delivers the best boost”, Mr Zahawi said.
Meanwhile, the Government has committed almost £30 million to improve vaccine testing capacity to help keep on top of the virus and any new variants.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said testing facilities at Porton Down in Wiltshire are to be bolstered to help “future-proof” the country, with a £29.3 million boost confirmed for the expansion of the laboratories where scientists test existing and new vaccines against variants of concern.