New strains of Covid-19 could soon flood hospitals across the country, but Moderna says its vaccine could be effective at neutralizing the variants.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CN) — Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine seems to be effective against new strains of coronavirus, including one that is thought to be 50% more transmissible, the company said Monday morning.
The pharmaceutical company announced that results from studies of the vaccine’s impact on emerging strains showed “neutralizing titers” against strains from the United Kingdom and from South Africa, and that the vaccine showed no antibody reduction against the new strains.
“We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna Covid-19 Vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants,” CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement.
Moderna will research whether an additional booster can further help against the new strains, and it is currently tweaking one of the shots to specifically address the B.1.351 variant from South Africa.
Nearly 100 million people have been infected with Covid-19, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Of those, 2.1 million have died. In the United States, more than 25 million confirmed cases have been reported, with nearly 420,000 deaths.
The U.K. variant was first detected last September and is considered far more transmissible — as much as 50% — than the original strain, but CDC officials have not yet stated it is more deadly. The South African version, which was first detected in October, is also thought to be more transmissible but not necessarily more lethal as does. A newly discovered variant from Brazil also appears to be much more transmissible.
While neither is thought to be more lethal than the original strain that causes Covid-19, more infections from a strain could still ramp up hospitalizations, leaving health officials worried that deaths could spike anyway.
Moderna’s vaccine received emergency approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month, and the company states it is 94.1% effective against the original strain of Covid-19.
Less than 1% of the 4 million people who received the vaccine have had a severe allergic reaction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC officials have said the allergic reactions have been treatable and that none of the 10 people affected have died.
Among the side effects reported were localized itching and shortness of breath for a brief period, but 10 recipients of the vaccine in California have had anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction.
CDC trials showed most side effects were mild to moderate and occurred within a week of receiving the vaccine. The vaccine requires two doses within 28 days.
Moderna said in a statement last week that there is no reason to pause the distribution of the vaccine. “These findings should continue to give Californians confidence that vaccines are safe and effective, and that the systems in place to ensure vaccine safety are rigorous and science-based,” said California’s lead epidemiologist, Dr. Erica Pan.
Shares of Moderna rose more than 8% on Monday following the news.