First study subjects receive modified Moderna vaccine to fight South Africa variant

Moderna announced Wednesday that it has administered the first doses to study participants of a modified vaccine designed to fight coronavirus variants.

Details: The company said it is observing the efficacy of two different modified vaccines in a small study involving 60 people who already received the original vaccine.

Some of the participants will get a booster dose of a modified vaccine designed specifically to fight a variant of the virus first identified in South Africa. This variant has been shown to reduce the immune response provoked by the original Moderna vaccine to some degree.

Other participants will get a booster dose that combines the modified vaccine with the original vaccine in order to produce a “multivalent” vaccine designed to fight multiple strains at once.

Why the study is needed: Moderna says studies have shown its original vaccine can protect against the variants, but there is still a six-fold reduction in the level of antibodies produced against the South African strain.

Therefore, “out of an abundance of caution,” the company has said it is preparing a booster dose specifically targeted against that strain if need be.