American pharmaceutical firm Moderna is developing a booster shot for its Wuhan coronavirus vaccine. The company said that its booster shot aims to improve effectiveness against the South African B1351 variant. Laboratory tests reported that the Moderna vaccine antibodies were six times lower when tested against the more worrisome variant. But the Boston-based company said its vaccine offers protection against both the South Africa and U.K. variants.
Laboratory analysis showed that the Moderna jab had six times less antibodies that block the virus from human cell receptors when tested against the South African B1351 strain. That amount of antibodies can still provide protection, albeit on a shorter period. Moderna is now working on a booster shot for the South African strain, which is going into pre-clinical trials as of writing.
The pharmaceutical firm said its vaccine worked just as well against the B117 variant found in the U.K., the same with older virus strains. However, it did not say if the jab equally worked against the P1 variant hailing from Brazil or any of the four homegrown U.S. strains.
A week earlier, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said the B1351 variant is the most concerning strain to have emerged. He explained that this particular strain may reduce the effectivity of existing vaccines and that it had already spread to at least 20 other countries.
“Thus far, it does not appear that the South African strain is in the U.S.,” Fauci said during a Jan. 21 White House press briefing. “That said, the level of sequence surveillance is not at the level we would like it to be.”
According to the NIAID director, B1351 could enter the U.S. undetected because the country is not keeping its eyes open for new variants.
The American health expert later said that the U.K. variant may be more lethal than earlier strains. He added that vaccines may need to be “upgraded” to deal with the South African variant.
Fauci insisted that the current Wuhan coronavirus vaccines are still effective against the pathogen. The mutated strain only prompts a “very slight” dip in their effectivity, he said. (Related: Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates both have ties to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer Moderna.)
Moderna has more problems to face aside from the South African coronavirus variant
Moderna’s vaccine has registered an effectivity rate of more than 94 percent against older coronavirus variants responsible for most U.S. infections. Research done by the Massachusetts pharmaceutical firm tested the mRNA-1273 vaccine on different Wuhan coronavirus variants. Samples of the new virus strains were combined with the blood plasma from a vaccinated individual.
Moderna scientists found that the B117 variant had “no significant impact” on the levels of neutralizing antibodies that hinder the virus from infecting human cells. The B117 strain is purported to be about 70 percent more infectious, but has shown few signs that it would reduce the effectivity of vaccines.
Moreover, the company said it is keeping a close watch on the B1351 variant from South Africa given the antibodies’ six-fold reduction. Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said the firm is advancing “an emerging booster candidate” against the said variant. He commented: “As we seek to defeat COVID-19, which has created a worldwide pandemic, we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves.”
But it appears that the drug firm has bigger problems than the B1351 strain. A number of people have reported serious side effects after getting the Moderna vaccine. news10 reported that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) suspended its mass vaccination program that used Moderna jabs. The state’s health department exhorted providers to pause their immunization programs following “a higher-than-usual number of adverse events reported with a specific lot of [the] Moderna vaccine.”
Meanwhile, nursing home employee Shawn Skelton suffered from uncontrollable convulsions and tongue spasms after getting the Moderna shot. Skelton’s partner Rich Vidiella said she experienced the adverse reactions three days after vaccination. Skelton advised against taking the vaccine in a Facebook post because of what she experienced. (Related: Moderna coronavirus vaccine causes dermal filler reactions, warns FDA.)
Even worse is the fact that antibodies against the Wuhan coronavirus dwindle after some time. Back in July 2020, The Hill reported that British researchers examined the immune responses of patients and health care workers who contracted COVID-19. They found that virus-destroying antibodies quickly declined after a peak period.
Sixty percent of patients who battled COVID-19 had a “potent” antibody response during a peak period. This percentage slid down to a low 16.7 percent after about two months. In some cases, antibodies against the Wuhan coronavirus became undetectable. This finding meant that any vaccine that aims to generate antibodies will eventually be rendered ineffective.
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