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Dr. Fauci says COVID-19 vaccines appear to be less effective against some new strains

COVID-19 vaccines appear to be less effective against some new strains

January 22, 2021: New data shows that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be sufficient to guard more contagious strains of the coronavirus, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday.

Some new strains of the coronavirus have emerged that have made scientists concerned. A handful of identified variants in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil appear to be more transmissible than previous strains.

While it’s no surprise the virus is mutating, researchers are quickly trying to determine the changes that might mean recently developed lifesaving vaccines and therapeutics against the disease.

Some findings published in the preprint server, which still haven’t been reviewed, show that the variant identified in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, can evade the antibodies provided by some coronavirus treatments may reduce the efficacy of the current line of available vaccines.

Researchers with South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases wrote, 501Y.V2 also shows complete escape from neutralizing antibodies in COVID-19 recovering plasma.

Even if the drugs are less effective, they will still likely provide enough protection to make the vaccines worth getting, Fauci said during a White House press briefing.

Both vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have proven to be highly effective, creating a “cushion effect” that would allow for some dip in their effectiveness.

Mutations occur when the virus spreads and replicates itself, which can be suppressed if enough people are inoculated against the disease to build so-called herd immunity, Fauci explained.

“We’re paying very close attention to it. There are alternative plans if we ever have to modify the vaccine. That’s not something that is a very demanding thing; we can do that given the platforms we have,” Fauci said.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the new director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that while she believes the vaccines will work against the mutated variants, they may not end up as effective as they were in clinical trials.

So far, the United States has not detected any cases of Covid-19 with the strain identified in South Africa, Fauci said, though the level of surveillance for the strains “is not at the level that we would have liked.”

Another study printed in bioRxiv by Pfizer and BioNTech’s scientists found that their Covid-19 vaccine was likely as effective against the infectious strain discovered in the U.K.

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