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Moderna ready to begin testing vaccine that fights South Africa strain

US biotech company Moderna has announced it is working with government scientists there to study an experimental booster shot specifically targeting the South African variant of Covid-19.

The firm has raised its global coronavirus vaccine production goal for this year by 100 million doses, it added.

It has produced raw material for a booster shot aimed at tackling the strain of Covid-19 that first emerged in South Africa, which may be more resistant to existing vaccines, said Moderna on Wednesday.

The vaccine has been shipped to the US National Institutes of Health, which helped develop Moderna’s current vaccine, for additional study.

Moderna is experimenting with several potential methods of combating new variants of the virus, including an additional booster shot targeting the South African variant, a combined booster shot that mixes its current vaccine with the experimental shot, and an extra booster shot on top of its current two-dose vaccine.

The South African variant of Covid-19 is spreading globally, with the US discovering its first case in January. It has since been identified in 14 states, according to official data.

Some studies have suggested it is more resistant to existing vaccines compared with other variants of the virus that emerged in South American and the UK.

Moderna has also raised its expected vaccine production for 2021 to 700 million doses globally, and is exploring further improvements to its manufacturing process that could raise production to as many as a billion doses.

More to follow…