Studies from recent data suggest that Covid vaccines currently available on the market may not be effective enough to fight against the new and more transmissible variants. And that is“all the more reason” why health authorities need to speed up and vaccinate as many people as they can, says leading infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The last few weeks have seen the rapid emergence of new strains around the world, giving scientists and drug-developers new concerns. While it’s only considered natural for viruses to mutate, scientists working on vaccines and life-saving therapeutics are baffled by what these changes could mean.
Studies have unanimously established that the new strains identified in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa are more contagious. But whether these strains are more dangerous is still being debated.
Some early findings on the variant identified in South Africa, known as 501.YV2, are indicative of the variant being strong enough to overcome antibodies created by certain Covid treatments. This in turn could mean that the vaccines currently being administered will prove ineffective against the variant.
At the present, Fauci’s team is more focused on the South African variant and watching it very closely since it is “a little bit more concerning”. He said,
“Bottom line: 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 onerous thing, we can do that given the platforms we have.”
Regardless of whether the current vaccines’ effectiveness is impacted by the variants, people are still advised to get their vaccinations. In fact, Fauci insists that if that is the case, it is“all the more reason why we should be vaccinating as many people as we possibly can.”
Kate O’Brien, the immunization director of the World Health Organization, explained in a recent press briefing, that it’s too early to have a clear understanding of the interaction between emerging variants and current vaccines.
She emphasized that all variants act differently in some way, which means their reactions to the vaccines will most likely vary as well. She said,
“This is really evolving information and there are a number of ways evaluations can be done to understand whether or not any ... of the vaccines are less effective against the variants.”
When asked about the impact of variants on vaccines, new CDC director Rochelle Walensky expressed hope. She said,
“I’m really optimistic about how these variants are going to go. I could be wrong. It could be that we’ll find variants and variants may emerge ... where the vaccine is less potent, but I’m still currently optimistic.”
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