Confidence Grows That COVID-19 Vaccines Can Fight Mutations

Source: Los Angeles Times

Confidence is growing that COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. are holding their own against the coronavirus mutations (currently referred to as variants) now in circulation.

“Everything we’ve seen with the mutations should provide marked reassurance, as far as the protection that is afforded by vaccines — particularly the vaccines that we have in the United States,” said Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. That upbeat view is buttressed by a growing sense that California is emerging from the worst of the pandemic: it has reported one of the lowest per-capita daily coronavirus case counts of any state in the U.S.

Studies have offered reassurance that existing vaccines work well against the two most dominant strains in California — the one first identified in the United Kingdom (B.1.1.7) and the homegrown mutation identified in California (B.1.427/B.1.429).

New data from Israel and Qatar show that mutations B.1.351 and B.1.1.7 “are very well covered” by the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, Topol said. (Those two vaccines account for the vast majority of vaccinations in the U.S.) In Israel, both doses of the Pfizer vaccine were 95.3% effective against coronavirus infection, according to data published in The Lancet.

In Brazil, a mutation known as P.1 is thought to be responsible for a second COVID-19 surge that has resulted in a death toll of more than 422,000. Only the United States has reported more COVID-19 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The good news, however, is that data show that “in the lab, the vaccines we have now worked quite well against P.1,” Topol said.

Across the U.S., cases involving the mutations first detected in California (B.1.427/B.1.429) and New York (B.1.526) seem to be waning, Topol said. “There’s no reason to think that our vaccines are not having a potent protection from them.” An off-shoot of that mutation, called B.1.617.2, emerged late last week at a London nursing home, Topol said, but the AstraZeneca vaccine seems to have provided protection against it.

And according Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious-disease specialist at UC San Francisco:

“Only mass vaccination will get us through the pandemic. You don’t want to mass immunity through massive deaths.”

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