Clinical trials showed that getting a Moderna booster shot could be effective against some COVID-19 variants that have experts concerned, the company announced Wednesday.
“As we seek to defeat the ongoing pandemic, we remain committed to being proactive as the virus evolves,” company CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.
“We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that our booster strategy should be protective against these newly detected variants,” she added.
Human trials showed people given a third shot after getting Moderna’s two-dose vaccine had an increased immune response to the coronavirus strains first identified in South Africa and Brazil, the company said in its announcement.
The company found that getting another dose of its already-authorized vaccine, or a strain-specific booster that it’s testing, could help in protecting against the variants. The strain-specific booster saw higher neutralizing antibodies against the so-called B.1.351 South Africa variant, the company said.
Moderna said it is positioned to tweak its vaccine to target mutations as they develop. Experts have worried that variants are more resistant to the current vaccines. That could lead to people being reinfected by new strains every few years, experts fear.
“We will continue to make as many updates to our COVID-19 vaccine as necessary to control the pandemic,” Barcel said.
Moderna is testing different approaches to protect against the variants: taking an additional dose of the current vaccine, taking a booster of the variant-specific vaccine or receiving a mix of the two.
The Phase 2 trials were administered to 40 participants six to eight months after they were first vaccinated, the company said. Side effects were mild or moderate and “generally well tolerated,” according to the announcement.
The FDA authorized the Moderna vaccine in December after the company filed for emergency use authorization.
With surges in the coronavirus in countries such as India and Brazil, the Biden administration announced Wednesday that it supports waiving intellectual property protections for coronavirus vaccines in a bid to allow more nations to produce vaccines.