Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine protects against two variants of the coronavirus that have emerged from Britain and South Africa, according to a company study.
In a statement Monday, Moderna said the vaccine triggered an immune response to “all key emerging variants,” including B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, which were first identified in the U.K. and South Africa, respectively.
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While the study showed no changes immune response to the U.K. variant compared to the original coronavirus, the vaccine produced a weaker immune response to the South African variant.
Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said "out of an abundance of caution," the company is developing a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that could combat the South African variant and future emerging ones.
“As we seek to defeat the COVID-19 virus … we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves,” he said in the company news release.
The booster candidate, mRNA-1273.351, will advance into preclinical studies and Phase 1 trial in the U.S.
Public health experts say the variants from the U.K. and South Africa transmit at a higher rate, leading to more infections and more deaths.
British scientists concluded that the U.K. variant, which was first detected in the country in September, spread 30%-70% faster than the previous dominant coronavirus strain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Friday it also may be about 30% more deadly than previous versions of the disease.
The South African variant has yet to be discovered in the United States, but the Biden administration isn’t taking any chances. On Sunday, Reuters reported President Joe Biden will impose a travel ban.
“We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa," Anne Schuchat, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention principal deputy director, is quoted by Reuters.
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Top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci called Biden's decision “prudent” Monday in a round of television interviews.
“We have concern about the mutation that’s in South Africa," Fauci told "CBS This Morning." "We’re looking at it very actively. It is clearly a different and more ominous than the one in the U.K., and I think it’s very prudent to restrict travel of noncitizens.”
He warned that more mutations are possible and said scientists are preparing to adapt the vaccines if necessary.
Last week, Biden moved to expand on the CDC requirement and direct that federal agencies require international travelers to quarantine upon arrival in the U.S. and obtain another negative test to slow the spread of the virus.
Contributing: Associated Press. Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID: Moderna says vaccine protects against UK, South Africa variants