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Vaccine Variant Trial to Begin

The US National Institutes of Health and Moderna are enrolling volunteers in a clinical trial to evaluate a candidate vaccine aimed at the B.1.351 SARS-CoV-2 variant, the agency has announced.

Following the emergence of viral variants, Moderna and other vaccine makers have begun to explore modified vaccines or vaccine booster shots to provide increased protection against viral variants like B.1.351, which was first uncovered in South Africa. Some initial studies have suggested that existing vaccines might provide some, though reduced protection against the emerging variants, particularly B.1.351.

With this new phase 1 trial, Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are to enroll 210 volunteers to evaluate the safety of the vaccine candidate as well as its ability to trigger an immune response.

"Preliminary data show that the COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States should provide an adequate degree of protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci says in a statement. "However, out of an abundance of caution, NIAID has continued its partnership with Moderna to evaluate this variant vaccine candidate should there be a need for an updated vaccine."