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How does Moderna’s COVID vaccine resist variants?

The biggest COVID-19 story right now is the rise in new coronavirus strains, especially the highly contagious Delta variant. Modern (NASDAQ: MRNA) recently reported data on its COVID vaccine and several coronavirus variants. Here Motley Fool Live video admitted June 30, 2021, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss these findings and what they can mean for investors.

Keith Speights: Moderna delivered an update Tuesday on how its COVID-1

9 vaccine generates neutralizing antibodies to several coronavirus variants, including most of those that have made the news recently.

Brian, what are the key takeaways for investors from Moderna’s latest update?

Brian Orelli: These are tests and we’ve talked about them before where you take the antibodies from humans. These were taken from people a week after they got their second shot of the Moderna vaccine.

They had previously tested exactly the same sera on the Alpha variant discovered in the UK and the Beta variant discovered in South Africa. This new study showed a modest reduction in neutralizing antibody levels against the Delta variant discovered in India as well as Gamma and Kappa.

Reduction for Delta, Gamma and Kappa was actually less than what they had previously seen for the Beta variant. So this is good news, especially for people who do not want to get a booster.

These are probably mixed results for Moderna. This may mean fewer sales if we do not need boosters, but it may also create Moderna as a go-to vaccine if the others fail with the variants. So it depends on what the future variants look like as well as whether its competitors are able to protect against these variants.

Speights: Brian, how credible is this kind of data? Neutralizing antibody levels – can we trust that Moderna’s vaccine is really effective against these variants due to these higher neutralizing antibodies, or should more tests be performed before we know it for sure?

Orelli: I think it’s a decent power of attorney for actual protection against infection. But remember, we are talking about short-term protection against antibody production versus long-term protection against B-cell production. This only measures really short-term protection, let’s say a few months after you get the vaccine versus long-term protection that just comes from B cells.

I’m not sure how much you can read about this, whether it means we do not need boosters against the variants, and whether it will also protect you from the next variant is also a big mystery.

Speights: We must note that the company, at least from Moderna’s directors’ public comments, fully expects that we will need boosters for the variants. In fact, they perform clinical trials on a variant-specific version of their vaccine. Even with these results, Moderna seems, at least publicly, to believe that we will need booster doses.

Orelli: Of course, the third question is here, even if it does not provide full protection, and if you get a mild case of COVID-19, then there is a trade-off there. What are the symptoms of getting COVID-19 versus the side effects of getting the vaccine? If it is a mild case, it may change the risk reward benefit in one way or another.

This article represents the author’s opinion, that may disagree with the “official” recommendation position for a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We are motley! Questioning an investment dissertation – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier and richer.

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