The first participants in Moderna’s trial assessing new variant-specific booster shots have been vaccinated, the company announced. The new vaccines target a coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa, which has demonstrated reduced vaccine efficacy.
Moderna is testing three variations of a booster among 60 vaccinated participants. First, it will study the variant-specific jab, which will be given at a lower dose than its original vaccine (20 micrograms), and will require an evaluation and an approved amendment to the original emergency use authorization from the FDA before distribution to the public, should the results of the trial prove promising.
Secondly, Moderna said it plans to study a combination of the original vaccine and the variant-specific one in a single jab at 50 micrograms. Lastly, it will study the effects of the variant booster shot at a higher dose, 50 micrograms.
In a recent published study, the biotech giant said its existing COVID-19 jab was found to have a six-fold reduction in vaccine-induced antibodies against the B.1.351 variant. Despite this reduction, however, “neutralizing titer levels with B.1.351 remain above levels that are expected to be protective,” the company said.
“Out of an abundance of caution, Moderna is pursuing a clinical development strategy against these emerging variants,” according to the company statement posted Wednesday.
Meanwhile, an institute under the National Institutes of Health will run a trial to test the new modified vaccines as primary shots in unvaccinated individuals, and as a booster shot in those previously vaccinated. Moderna said the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease will start this study when it receives the green light from the FDA.