Moderna’s Covid vaccine appears to work against new, more infectious variants of the pandemic virus found in the UK and South Africa, say scientists from the US pharmaceutical company.
Early laboratory tests suggest antibodies triggered by the vaccine can recognise and fight the new variants. More studies are needed to confirm this is true for people that have been vaccinated.
The new variants have been spreading fast in a number of nations.
They have undergone changes or mutations that mean they can infect human cells more easily than the original version of coronavirus that started the pandemic.
Experts think the UK strain, which emerged in September, may be up to 70% more transmissible.
Current vaccines were designed around earlier variants, but scientists believe they should still work against the new ones, although perhaps not quite as well.
For this study, researchers looked at blood samples taken from eight people who had received the recommended two doses of the Moderna vaccine.
The findings are yet to be peer reviewed, but suggest immunity from the vaccine still works against the new variants.
Neutralising antibodies, made by the immune system, attach to the virus and block it from entering cells.
The blood samples that were exposed to the new variants appeared to have sufficient antibodies to achieve this neutralising.
UK regulators have already approved Moderna’s vaccine for rollout on the NHS, but the 17m pre-ordered doses are not expected to arrive until Spring.
The vaccine works in a similar way to the Pfizer one already being used in the UK.
More than 6.3 million people in the UK have already received a first dose of either the Pfizer or the AstraZeneca vaccine.