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Pfizer-BioNTech and Modern COVID-19 vaccines appear to be effective against variant B.1.526 first identified in New York, according to in the New York Times.
The variant appears to be more contagious than the original strain and has contributed to an increase in COVID-19 cases in New York. Two recent independent studies have found that vaccines effectively prevent serious illness and death from the variant.
“We don’t see big differences,” Michael Nussenzweig, an immunologist at Rockefeller University in New York, told the newspaper.
Nussenzweig and colleagues published a new paper On Thursday, on the bioRxiv prepress server, he found that the antibodies created by the vaccines were only slightly less effective against variant B.1.526. They conducted laboratory-based experiments with blood samples from vaccinated individuals and observed that the peak mutations of variant B.1.526 only created a small drop in efficacy.
The paper has not yet been peer-reviewed, but the results are consistent with other studies that have tested vaccines with other variants. Further studies suggest that the two main vaccines in the United States – Pfizer and Modern – may protect against several variants, including the first-identified B.1.1.7 contagious variant in the United Kingdom and the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa.
In another role published on the bioRxiv prepress server in late March, researchers at New York University found that vaccine-created antibodies neutralized variant B.1.526 and had only a lesser decrease in efficacy against peak mutations.
In both studies, neutralizing antibodies from vaccinated individuals provided better protection against the virus than antibodies from people with natural immunity after contracting COVID-19. Vaccine-induced antibodies appear to cover a wider range of the various parts of the virus, rather than a particular mutation. The New York Times reported. This could mean that vaccines offer better protection against variants with different mutations, as opposed to immunity to natural infection related to a particular coronavirus strain.
“The message to take home is that vaccines will work against the New York variant and the South African variant and the UK variant,” Nathan Landau, a virologist who led the second study, told the newspaper.