© Mary Altaffer
A modified version of the Moderna vaccine to better target the South African variant of Covid-19 is already ready to be tested in clinical trials.
Moderna is adapting its vaccine to the variant spotted in South Africa. A modified version to better target this version of the virus is already ready to be tested in clinical trials. This variant has shown a capacity for resistance against the immune defenses developed after infection or vaccine injection.
In January, Moderna observed a decrease in the effectiveness of its product against this variant, although the level of effectiveness remained high. The company therefore decided to launch the development of a new formula. Several scenarios are under study. This modified version of the vaccine could be used as a third dose. Or the company could combine the two formulas in a single dose.
The tests to be carried out will be less extensive than the usual long clinical trials to be authorized in the United States. As with the changed versions of influenza vaccines each year, the United States Drugs Agency (FDA) does not request the same trials for formula changes of already authorized vaccines.
The firm “Undertakes to make as many modifications to [son] vaccine as needed, until the pandemic is under control ”. It has also revised its production forecasts upwards. It estimates that it can deliver 700 million doses in 2021 (against 600 million initially planned) and 1.4 billion in 2022. Of the 60 million doses produced to date, 55 million have been delivered to the United States.
Moderna’s competitors are also posting some good news. The overall effectiveness of Pfizer is confirmed by an Israeli study published in the New England Journal of Medecine. According to the analysis of data from 1.2 million people, vaccination reduced symptomatic cases of Covid-19 by 94%, severe cases of the disease by 92%, and hospitalizations by 87%. These rates apply to the protection obtained at least seven days after the second injection.
In addition, the US authorities have confirmed the efficacy of Johnson & Johnson’s serum, including against variants, on the basis of clinical trial data. It would be 85.9% against severe forms of the disease in the United States, and 81.7% in South Africa and 87.6% in Brazil, where variants circulate. This opinion presages a rapid marketing in the United States for this single-dose vaccine, which can be stored in conventional refrigerators.
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