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While Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the SARS-CoV-2 strains recently identified in the UK and South Africa, it is also developing a booster shot to increase immunity against emerging strains, the New York Times reports

Researchers from Moderna conducted in vitro neutralization studies using blood sera from people who had received its vaccine. Exposure to both the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 strains — identified in the UK and South Africa, respectively — elicited neutralizing antibodies, the company reports. The researchers noted that though the antibody response to the B.1.351 strain was above what is thought to be needed for the vaccine to be protective, it was lower than the response to other variants.

Still, the company says that it is developing a booster shot. "We're doing it today to be ahead of the curve should we need to," Tal Zaks, Moderna's chief medical officer, tells the Times. "I think of it as an insurance policy."

A Rockefeller University-led team of researchers similarly reported in a bioRxiv preprint last week that some SARS-CoV-2 variants could influence vaccine effectiveness.

Moderna adds that its study has been submitted to the preprint server bioRxiv and will be submitted for peer-reviewed publication.