Lab studies using blood samples from eight trial participants who received both doses indicated “minimal impact” on neutralizing power against the Alpha variant first detected in the U.K. and a “modest reduction” by 2.1-fold against the Delta variant, which has been detected in over 85 countries. Modest reductions were also seen for the Gamma, Kappa and Eta variants at 3.2-fold, 3.3-3.4-fold and 4.2-fold versus the ancestral strain, respectively. Versions of the Beta variant, first detected in South Africa, dealt up to an 8.4-fold reduction, and a variant first found in Angola, A.VOI.V2, lent an 8.0-fold reduction in neutralizing antibody levels, though this strain hasn’t been identified as a variant of interest or concern.
Findings were submitted as a preprint to the bioRxiv server.
“As we seek to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative that we are proactive as the virus evolves. We remain committed to studying emerging variants, generating data and sharing it as it becomes available. These new data are encouraging and reinforce our belief that the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine should remain protective against newly detected variants,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, in a statement posted Tuesday. “These findings highlight the importance of continuing to vaccinate populations with an effective primary series vaccine.”
The news comes as India granted emergency approval for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, marking the fourth shot in the country’s arsenal against the virus and clearing the way for Indian drugmaker Cipla to distribute shots.
The company reiterated its ongoing development of booster shots, though an expert panel advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week said there isn’t enough data to support a recommendation for use of booster shots, and experts expect to monitor studies into the fall.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant has resulted in some U.S. leaders and public health officials encouraging mask use, regardless of vaccination status. Los Angeles health officials strongly recommended everyone wear masks while in indoor public spaces on Monday after the Delta variant rose to account for nearly half of the county’s sequenced variants. Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker also said he is encouraging all residents regardless of vaccination status to leave home with a mask citing concern over the rapid spread of the Delta variant.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said incoming data reflects the variant accounts for about 20% of U.S. coronavirus cases, with the rate doubling about every two weeks.