The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna can protect people against the COVID-19 variants discovered in Britain and South Africa, though not as much for the latter, the company said Monday, according to The Washington Post.

What happened?

Moderna used blood samples from eight people who received the first two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and two monkeys that had also been vaccinated, according to The New York Times.

  • The British variant did not neutralize the antibodies.
  • The study found that the vaccine can protect against both British and South Africa variants, However, the antibodies produced by the vaccine “were less efficient at neutralizing the South African variant in a laboratory dish — a sixfold reduction in response foreshadowed by a small, but mounting body of evidence that has trickled out showing that the variant may have the potential to elude parts of the immune response,” according to The Washington Post. This means that the vaccine can protect against both, but less so for the South African variant.

Key quote

  • “The virus is changing its stripes, and we will change to make sure we can beat the virus where it’s going,” Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna, told The Washington Post. “The unknown is would we feel it’s necessary to do that, would public health officials want this at that point or would they still be comfortable? What we’re trying to do is create an option.”
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An upgrade is coming

However, Moderna said that it is already working on an upgrade to the COVID-19 vaccine in case the variants become more widespread and can evade the vaccine, according to The New York Times.

  • “We’re doing it today to be ahead of the curve should we need to,” Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, said in an interview. “I think of it as an insurance policy.”
  • He added, “I don’t know if we need it, and I hope we don’t.”
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Experts recommend an upgrade

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently said on the “Today” show that the COVID-19 vaccine might need to upgrade to defeat the new variants.

  • “I don’t want people to think that the vaccines are not effective against them — they are. However, we really need to make sure that we begin, and we already have, to prepare, if it’s necessary, to upgrade the vaccines.”