Covid: Moderna vaccine still effective against new variants, testing shows

The Moderna vaccine will protect against the mutant variants. Credit: PA

The Moderna vaccine is effective against the UK and South Africa variants of Covid-19, the company has confirmed.

There had been fears that the mutant versions of the virus could be resistant to the vaccines currently being manufactured - but this has been proven false by scientists at Moderna during testing.

The two dose method of vaccination was tested against the new variants and found to work, but further testing will take place to firm up the findings.

“As we seek to defeat the Covid-19 virus, which has created a worldwide pandemic, we believe it is imperative to be proactive as the virus evolves," said Stéphane Bancel, Moderna's Chief Executive

The Moderna coronavirus vaccine may be 94.5% effective against the illness Credit: Moderna/PA

"We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna Covid-19 Vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants"

“Out of an abundance of caution and leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa into the clinic to determine if it will be more effective to boost titers against this and potentially future variants.”

The UK government has ordered 17 million doses of the vaccine, however supplies will not be delivered until the spring.

What do we know about the Moderna vaccine?

The US company said its Covid vaccine offers high levels of protection and trials have shown no serious safety concerns.

The phase three results suggest vaccine efficacy against the disease was 94.1%, and vaccine efficacy against severe Covid-19 was 100%.

More than 30,000 people in the US took part from a wide range of age groups and ethnic backgrounds.

Two doses were given 28 days apart so researchers could evaluate safety and any reaction to the vaccine.

The analysis was based on 196 cases, of which 185 cases of Covid-19 were observed in the placebo group versus 11 cases observed in the active vaccine group.

Moderna also released data relating to severe cases.

All 30 severe cases occurred in the placebo group and none in the group which had received the vaccine, known currently as mRNA-1273.

A scientist working on the Moderna coronavirus vaccine Credit: Screengrab/Moderna/PA

How does the vaccine work?

The Moderna jab is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.

Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code.

An mRNA vaccine is injected into the body, where it enters cells and tells them to create antigen.

These antigens are recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.

No actual virus is needed to create an mRNA vaccine. This means the rate at which the vaccine can be produced is accelerated.