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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

Vaccine targeting B.1.351 variant shows promising results – Moderna

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has undergone several thousand mutations since it emerged in humans in late 2019.


Moderna says the two variant-specific vaccine candidates it is testing in mice for SARS-CoV-2 variants are showing promise.

This as the company starts testing versions of a vaccine targeting the B.1.351 variant which was first identified in South Africa.

“These variant-specific vaccine candidates include mRNA-1273.351, which is more specifically targeted against the SARS-CoV-2 variant known as B.1.351 first identified in the Republic of South Africa and a multivalent booster candidate, mRNA-1273.211, which combines mRNA-1273 (Moderna’s authorised vaccine against ancestral strains) and mRNA-1273.351 in a single vaccine,” the company said.

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“A boost at six months with mRNA-1273.351 closed the neutralising titer gap for the variants of concern. Following the mRNA-1273.351 boost, neutralising titers were comparable between the ancestral strain (Wuhan) and the new B.1.351 variant. The company’s Phase 2 study to evaluate three approaches to boosting is ongoing.”

The company said its vaccine continued to show strong efficacy against the virus six months after people got their second jabs.

It has shown more than 90% efficacy against all cases of Covid-19 and more than 95% against severe cases

As of April 12, approximately 132 million doses of the vaccine have been delivered globally, with 117 million of these for the US.

“The Moderna team continues to make important progress with our Covid-19 vaccine. We are looking forward to having the clinical data from our variant-specific booster candidates, as well as clinical data from the Phase 2/3 study of our Covid-19 vaccine in adolescents,” said Bancel.

“The new preclinical data on our variant-specific vaccine candidates give us confidence that we can proactively address emerging variants. Moderna will make as many updates to our Covid-19 vaccine as necessary until the pandemic is under control.”

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The SARS-CoV-2 virus has undergone several thousand mutations since it emerged in humans in late 2019.

Of the known variants, three are particularly worrying – those initially detected in southeast England, South Africa and in travellers from Brazil arriving in Japan.

They circulate in 125, 75 and 41 countries respectively, according to a recent update by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

It has designated them “variants of concern” because of their increased transmissibility and/or virulence, which worsens an epidemic and makes it more difficult to control.

Additional reporting by AFP

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