September 26, 2023

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine on Tuesday February 9, 2021 at the Pacheco Vaccination Center in Brussels, Belgium.

Geert Vanden Wijngaert | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Moderna said Tuesday that its Covid-19 vaccine showed promise against coronavirus variants, including the highly contagious Delta variant, first identified in India in a laboratory setting.

The two-dose mRNA vaccine produced neutralizing antibodies against Delta as well as Beta and Eta, variants that Moderna said were first found in South Africa and Nigeria, respectively.

The company said the results were based on blood serum from eight participants one week after receiving the second dose of the vaccine. The data have not yet been peer-reviewed. The results, while promising, may not reflect how the vaccines actually perform against the variants in real-world scenarios.

Moderna shares rose more than 6% in intraday trading after the lab results were announced.

“We continue to strive to investigate new variants, generate data and share them as they become available,” said Stephane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, in a press release. “These new data are encouraging and reinforce our belief that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine should continue to protect against newly discovered variants.”

Moderna’s update comes days after World Health Organization officials urged fully vaccinated people to continue wearing masks, maintain social distance, and practice other pandemic safety measures as the delta spreads rapidly across the world.

It also comes the same day that Moderna approved its vaccine for use in India, where the Delta variant is believed to be behind the big outbreak there.

Delta, now present in at least 92 countries including the United States, is expected to become the predominant variant of the disease worldwide. In the US, the prevalence of the strain doubles roughly every two weeks.

WHO officials said Friday that they are urging fully vaccinated people to continue to “play it safe” as much of the world remains unvaccinated and highly contagious variants like Delta spread in many countries and cause outbreaks.

The comments were a departure from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said fully vaccinated Americans can be maskless in most environments.

“People can’t feel safe just because they got the two doses. They still need to protect themselves,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO Deputy Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, during a press conference.

Approved vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson have been shown to be highly effective in preventing Covid, particularly against serious illness and death.

Some variants, including Delta, have shown the vaccines to be slightly less effective, and WHO officials said they fear people vaccinated could become part of the chains of transmission.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that about half of the adults infected in a Delta variant outbreak in Israel were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine, prompting the local government to reintroduce indoor masking and other measures.

In the United States, President Joe Biden warned that unvaccinated people are particularly at risk of contracting Delta.

He said the number of Covid deaths would continue to increase across the country due to the spread of the “dangerous” variant, calling this a “serious concern”.

“More than six hundred thousand Americans have died, and with this variant of the Delta, you know there will be others too. You know it will happen. We need to vaccinate young people,” Biden said Thursday at a community center in Raleigh, North Carolina.