The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has been traced to at least 10 states, and will likely become the prominent version of the disease in the U.S. by March. Researchers believe the variant is at least 50% more contagious than the standard strain of COVID-19.
The study, released this week, is preliminary. It was conducted by scientists working for Pfizer and BioNTech, and has not yet been peer reviewed. But the findings support research earlier this month that the vaccine had equivalent “neutralizing” effects on a key mutation in both the British variant and one that was discovered in South Africa.
In the latest study, scientists created pseudo-viruses to mimic the variant for testing. They discovered that blood taken from subjects who had received the Pfizer vaccine neutralized the pseudo-viruses. The findings “make it unlikely that the B.1.1.7 lineage will escape” the protection of the Pfizer vaccine, researchers concluded.
The incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, said in a video interview earlier this week with the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association that the Pfizer vaccine is so effective that there’s a “little bit of a cushion” concerning variants.
Deborah Fuller, a professor in the department of microbiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, is also optimistic that effective vaccines will continue to provide protection from variants, even if it’s somewhat reduced.
“With some of these vaccines being above 90% effectiveness, the expectation is that ― in a worst-case scenario with some of these mutations ― it might say drop to say 85% effectiveness, which is still very effective,” she told HuffPost.
Scientists are currently also testing the vaccine against other concerning variants that are cropping up, particularly those discovered in Brazil and South Africa, which also appear to be more transmissible. People who contract those strains appear in addition to be more vulnerable to reinfection more quickly after an initial case of COVID-19, Stat reported.
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