While they are reaching the public at a steady pace, the question remains, are covid-19 vaccines fit for the new strain ? According to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the new B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant has now reached the US. Additionally, it “may be associated with a higher degree of mortality.”
Dr Fauci has also mentioned that the US officials are on close watch for all the new variants, including 501.V2 from South Africa. Dr Fauci also believes that the South African variant might have a detrimental effect on the monoclonal antibodies. Therefore, it can reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine. However, continuous researches are taking place to analyze further.
According to Dr Fauci, ‘These are serious situations that we are following very closely and, if necessary, we will adapt to it.’ He also said that there are possibilities of alteration to the vaccine to adapt to the new strain. This statement has been making rounds as people question how much change can a vaccine go through to adapt to all the variants.
The US has received two SARS-COV-2 vaccines, one from Pfizer-BioNTech and the other from Moderna. Both of them utilize the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
The mRNA from the vaccine encodes a part of the spike protein found on the SARS-COV-2 infection. Up next, the vaccine utilizes these spike-proteins to create an antibody to the virus as an immunity response. The body then removes the mRNA and the spike proteins to have the antibodies work on curing. According to Dr Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease expert, the antibodies will have staying power.
Is There Any Difference Between the COVID-19 Infection and its Variants?
The newer strains, B.1.1.7 from the UK and the 501.V2 from South Africa are allegedly more infectious than the regular COVID-19 infection. The recent strains have several mutations and are in the spike protein. Hence, they latch on better to the human-cell than the regular COVID-19 infection. Therefore, the new strain can spread quickly and infect more people within a short period.
Are COVID-19 Vaccines Effective Against the New Variants?
Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have claimed that their vaccines are effective against the new SARS-COV-2 variants. The claim comes from their lab testing results. Moderna has stated in their press release that their vaccine can generate neutralizing antibody responses to multiple domains of the protein.
Moderna has explained, “The full-length spike protein is 1,273 amino acids long, so while recent variants involve multiple mutations, for instance, up to eight amino acid changes in the spike protein of the B.1.1.7 strain, these represent less than a one per cent difference from the spike protein encoded by Moderna’s vaccine.”
They have also mentioned that they shall continue to strategize their researches to “proactively address the pandemic as the virus continues to evolve.” The current plan to test an additional booster vaccine dose to see if it raises the antibody count and targets the South African Variant. The reason is to stay alert and ready “just in case we need it,” according to Dr William Schaffner. He is an infectious disease specialist and professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
With rising infection and related-deaths, the vaccines’ are going through constant research and testing for optimal use against all variants.