New data shows that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective at protecting against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, said White House Health Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Thursday.
A handful of new strains of the coronavirus have emerged overseas, giving scientists cause for concern. Some variants identified in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil appear to be more transmissible than previous strains, but not necessarily more deadly.
While it’s no surprise that the virus is mutating, researchers are quick to figure out what the changes could mean for recently developed life-saving vaccines and therapeutics for the disease.
Some early results, published on the preprint server bioRxiv and not yet peer-reviewed, indicate that the variant identified in South Africa may evade the antibodies of some coronavirus treatments and reduce the effectiveness of the currently available range of vaccines.
Even if the drugs are less effective, they will likely still provide enough protection to make the vaccines worthwhile, Fauci said. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be highly effective, creating a “cushioning effect” that would allow some decrease in their effectiveness.
A decline in the effectiveness of vaccines would be “all the more a reason why we should vaccinate as many people as possible”. Mutations occur when the virus spreads and replicates. This can be suppressed if enough people are vaccinated against the disease to develop what is known as herd immunity.
“Bottom line: We are very careful. There are alternative plans if we ever need to modify the vaccine. It’s not a very burdensome thing, we can do it given the platforms we have,” Fauci said during the White House press conference .
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