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A doctor drawing the Moderna vaccine into syringes in Central Falls, Rhode Island, on Feb. 13. Photo: Joseph Prezioso

Vaccine producer Moderna announced Wednesday it is sending doses of a new vaccine designed to better protect against the coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa to the National Institutes of Health for a Phase 1 clinical trial.

Why it matters: The trial is a major step toward producing and distributing a vaccine specifically designed for the South Africa variant, which may spread faster and more easily than the original coronavirus strain, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Multiple vaccine producers, including Moderna, have said that vaccines made to protect against the original strain, while still effective, offered less protection against the South African variant.

  • Oxford and AstraZeneca, which partnered to produced a vaccine for the original strain, said an updated version of its vaccine that protects against the South African variant could be available this fall.
  • The South African variant has been discovered in multiple states in the U.S. alongside other variants.

Go deeper

Feb 24, 2021 - Health

California COVID-19 strain may be more infectious

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new coronavirus variant in California is more contagious than the initial strain, two studies confirm, according to the New York Times.

Yes, but: Researchers still don't know whether this variant is deadlier, or causes more severe illness.

Updated Feb 24, 2021 - Health

FDA analysis finds Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is safe and effective

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration's staff released a briefing document on Wednesday endorsing Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine as safe and effective.

The latest: Assuming the FDA issues an emergency use authorization "without delay," meaning as soon as this weekend, White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said J&J will have 3 million to 4 million ready for distribution next week.

Updated Feb 22, 2021 - Health

Fauci boss gives Trump administration credit on Operation Warp Speed

National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins tells "Axios on HBO" that the Trump administration deserves credit for the "breathtaking" speed of COVID vaccine development.

The big picture: The fact that it "got done in 11 months from when we first knew about this virus is at least five years faster than it's ever been before before," Collins said.