Moderna vaccine may protect against mutated variants

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Tue 26th Jan, 2021

According to the manufacturer, Moderna's vaccine should also protect against the Corona variants first discovered in the UK and South Africa.

In a laboratory experiment, it was shown that vaccinated volunteers have sufficient antibodies in their blood against the variants B.1.1.7 (Great Britain) and B.1.351 (South Africa) - also known as 501Y.V2, as announced by Moderna on Monday. However, the study has not yet been peer-reviewed by independent experts, norpublished in a peer-reviewed journal.

"We are encouraged by the new data, and it reinforces our confidence that Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine protects against these newly discovered variants," company CEO Stephane Bancel said, according to their statement. The researchers were able to show that a similar number of antibodies are produced against B.1.1.7 as against the conventional variants. Significantly fewer such antibodies were formed against B.1.351. The protection presumably remains, however, according to Moderna. Despite these results, the company now wants to look for ways to induce a more pronounced immune response in vaccinated people. Among other things, it will test what an additional dose does.

Experts are concerned that more contagious mutants of the coronavirus could massively worsen the infection situation. In the UK, variant B.1.1.7 had spread rapidly - in South Africa, it was the corona variant B.1.351. "Both variants have spread rapidly and are associated with increased transmission and viral load post-infection," Moderna reported. Last week, the Mainz-based company Biontech and its US partner Pfizer had already announced that their vaccine probably protected against the Corona variant B.1.1.7.

In related news, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for urgency in the global distribution of Corona vaccines. "If developed countries think they are safe by vaccinating their own people while neglecting developing countries, they are wrong," Guterres said in a video speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting on Monday. "There is now a clear, real risk of mutations that make the virus more transmissible or deadly or resistant to existing vaccines. We must act quickly."

Global production capacity of the agents to contain the Covid 19 pandemic must be massively expanded and licences made available, Guterres further urged. India and Brazil, among others, have great potential to produce vaccines for all parts of the world, he said, provided the licences to produce them are made available. "Vaccines must be seen as global public goods," the UN chief said, promoting better funding for the international Corona vaccine initiative Covax. In addition, he said, it must be ensured that the funds are affordable for all.

Huge vaccination campaigns to combat the pandemic have already been underway in a number of industrialised countries since December. Given the high demand and supply bottlenecks, developing countries are expected to take significantly longer on average to immunise their populations. The EU on the other hand, botched up their ordering process, leaving Angela Merkel red-faced as the recently divorced UK stomed ahead with their vaccination programme just weeks after leaving the EU, while the rest of the bloc struggles with supplies and rollout.

Photo by Daniel Schludi

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