In the wake of a new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) variant in New York, many have feared that vaccines may be less effective. Two independent studies from NYU Grossman School of Medicine and The Rockefeller University suggest that both the Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna vaccines will effectively prevent serious illness and death from the variant.
The results are based on laboratory experiments with blood samples from small numbers of vaccinated people and have not yet been peer-reviewed. Still, they are consistent with what is known about similar variants, several experts say, and they add to a growing body of research that suggests that the two main vaccines in the United States are protective against all of the variants identified so far.
“The take-home message is that the vaccines are going to work against the New York variant and the South African variant and the UK variant,” says Nathaniel R. Landau, PhD, a virologist at NYU Langone’s Department of Microbiology who led one of the studies.
The worry about the variant identified in New York has centered on one form of it, which contains a mutation that scientists are calling Eek. The Eek mutation subtly alters the shape of the virus, making it difficult for antibodies to target the virus and, as a result, undercutting the vaccines.
Dr. Landau’s team found that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are only marginally less protective against the variant that devastated Britain and against forms of the variant discovered in New York that don’t contain the Eek mutation. His team also tested monoclonal antibodies used to treat COVID-19 against the variants, finding that the cocktail of monoclonal antibodies made by Regeneron worked as well against the variant discovered in New York as against the original virus.
Read more from The New York Times.