The first “modified” vaccine against the disturbing variants of the coronavirus that emerged in South Africa and Brazil successfully neutralized them in laboratory tests, the US company Moderna said.
The results of the small trial suggest that variant boosters will be feasible and could potentially be deployed this year to counter the threat of variants that have emerged globally and that in some cases are feared to be more transmissible or partially resistant. vaccines. .
Large companies have struggled to produce suitable versions of their Covid-19 vaccines.
Pfizer-BioNTech, which has an mRNA vaccine similar to Moderna’s, and AstraZeneca are also developing modified vaccines against the South African variant, B1351, and the Brazilian variant, P1, which appear to be the main threat to current immunization programs. .
Moderna became the first to report results on Wednesday evening. They seem very positive, although only basic information from an initial analysis of the results is available to date.
The US company tested both a booster shot of its standard Covid vaccine and a modified version of the vaccine in people who had already received the full double dose. Twenty adults were recruited for each arm of the trial, for a total of 40.
Two weeks after the new jab, Moderna says the booster and the modified vaccine increased antibodies in the blood that can neutralize the two worrisome variants.
But the modified vaccine – called mRNA-1273.351 and designed specifically to fight South African and Brazilian variants, which have similar mutations to the spike protein – produced higher levels of neutralizing antibodies than the standard booster, l ‘MRNA-1273.
Moderna says he’s also leading a trial in which people are given a mixture of the booster and the vaccine specifically designed against the variant. He submitted the first results in hard copy to a pre-print server, he said in a statement. Once the combined trial is complete, it will produce an article that will be published with peer review.
“As we seek to defeat the ongoing pandemic, we remain committed to being proactive as the virus evolves. We are encouraged by this new data, which reinforces our confidence that our recall strategy should be protective against these new detected variants ”, said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna.
“Our mRNA platform enables the rapid design of vaccine candidates that incorporate key viral mutations, potentially allowing for faster development of future alternative vaccines with variations when needed … We will continue to make as many updates as possible. update of our Covid-19 vaccine as needed to control the pandemic. “
The vaccines have not been tested in the field; these are blood samples analyzed in the laboratory. But regulatory authorities said they would not need to go through the rigorous large-scale testing that was required for the original vaccines to gain emergency approval.
The company said the vaccines had few side effects and those reported were mild. Besides pain at the injection site, the most frequently reported side effects were fatigue, headache, muscle pain and joint pain. – Guardian