Moderna submits COVID-19 booster shot for variant from South Africa

Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani joined Yahoo Finance Live to break down the lastest news from Moderna.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Good morning. Breaking news regarding Moderna. What do you got?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's right, Adam. So the company has announced that it is submitting its booster shots specifically targeting that South African variant B1351 right now to the NIH, in order to start clinical trials and clinical studies on that variant, on the booster shot specifically, as well as some other options that it's going to be able to roll out in terms of lower doses in order to be able to see what works best against this variant.

I spoke to the CEO, Stephane Bancel, and he said that this record time in being able to produce an additional shot, a booster shot and tweak it to particularly target that variant, is just an example of how the new technology is going to be able to respond to emerging variants moving forward. Meanwhile, we also know that the production of COVID-19 vaccines is a concern with Moderna now saying that it can expand its vaccine production for 2020, targeting 1.4 billion doses. That's nearly triple of its original goal of half a million in a year.

This is all coming as the company is able to expand not just because of equipment, and also with its partners, but also because it's also gotten the hang of producing this mRNA vaccine. CEO Stephane Bancel again telling me that because of its ability to not just scale up, but also pay upfront for raw materials early on, they were able to really get this going. So there's a foundation now. So moving forward not just with the production of the original vaccine, but also moving forward if and when it seeks regulatory approval for the variant, it can also continue and start to boost the production of that as well. Adam.

SEANA SMITH: Well, Anjalee, just following up on that, just in terms of the production. What is Moderna done that has been so effective? Because we were just talking to a doctor in the last hour, in the 3:00 PM hour, and he was still addressing a lot of the production issues and a lot of the manufacturing issues that these companies are facing when it comes to vaccines.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Right. Well, Moderna really benefited by partnering up with the federal government. And we know that it was one of the first out the door with a vaccine candidate, but also was able to lean on the federal government's use of the Defense Production Act. That meant that it got priority rating. So all the supplies, the materials, the equipment, things that it really needed to get moving and get to the front of the line, it was able to get.

But in addition, it's also been able to learn how to scale up more quickly. We heard the president tell lawmakers yesterday at a House subcommittee that they're still learning the process of scaling up this new technology. But because it is a process that's largely synthetic, they're able to move more quickly and able to figure out how to become more efficient as more partners come online and as the existing partners scale up with hiring, as well as with equipment. And like I mentioned, the purchase of all the stuff up front really helped move things along.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Anjalee Khemlani with the update. Thank you.