Moderna to test booster shot targeting South African variant

Moderna to test booster shot targeting South African variant
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Vaccine developer Moderna said Wednesday it has manufactured a booster of its coronavirus vaccine that is specifically targeted to stop a variant of the disease first found in South Africa.

The company said it has shipped doses to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a phase one clinical trial that will be led and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

The variant, known as B.1.351, has been found in several states across the country and includes several mutations that experts fear will make it less susceptible to the vaccines currently on the market.


Once the Food and Drug Administration says human trials can proceed, the company said it will test whether the variant-specific vaccine can boost immunity. 

While the original vaccine has been shown to have some neutralizing effect on the South African variant in a lab, Moderna said it is also pursuing additional boosters, and will test giving people a third dose, "out of an abundance of caution."

"Moderna is committed to making as many updates to our vaccine as necessary until the pandemic is under control. We hope to demonstrate that booster doses, if necessary, can be done at lower dose levels, which will allow us to provide many more doses to the global community in late 2021 and 2022 if necessary," CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.

Moderna also said it plans to develop two new primary vaccines, one targeted specifically for B.1.351, and another that combines its existing vaccine and the B.1.351 version. 

Pfizer, the other vaccine maker with an authorized vaccine in the U.S., has also said it will be testing whether a booster can help fight against the variants.