COVID-19 Vaccines: Current State of Play
This is why according to experts we need to speed up the coronavirus vaccines rollout
Coronavirus vaccines were among the topics discussed by NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, MD, at his first press conference with the Biden administration.
During Thursday’s briefing, Dr. Fauci emphasized how the new administration approach is to “make everything we do be based on science and evidence.”
Moreover, he made it clear that health authority officials pay close attention to the new variants of SARS-CoV-2 discovered in the UK, South Africa, and Brazil, known to be more transmissible but not necessarily more deadly.
“We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless not something that we don’t think we can handle.”
This specific variant (501Y.V2) raises concern after a team of scientists from three South African universities, working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), disclosed new data on a yet to be peer-reviewed study¹ submitted to bioRxiv.
Their findings raise awareness regarding the prospect of reinfection with antigenically distinct variants and may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.¹
Hence, this is why Dr. Fauci noted that the new variants make vaccination more urgent than ever. We have to make the most of the “cushion effect” provided by the highly effective vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Even if the vaccine isn’t a silver bullet against the new coronavirus, mass-vaccination is the only way to ensure that the new variants won’t bring down COVID-19 vaccine efficacy to the point where it would be concerning.
“As long as the virus is out there replicating, viruses don’t mutate unless they replicate. If you suppress that with a very good vaccination campaign, then you can actually avoid the deleterious effect you get from mutations,” Fauci added.
He remains confident in the established COVID-19 vaccine platforms' capacity to retrofit the vaccine if required.
“Bottom line: We’re paying very close attention to it, (…) There are alternative plans if we ever have to modify the vaccine. That’s not something that is a very onerous thing, we can do that given the platforms we have.”
However, British scientists point out how the virus will continue to mutate, and the status quo can rapidly change. Hence, we can’t foresee what the future holds, and problems may occur when trying to redesign the vaccines to suppress a rogue mutated strain.
Dr. Fauci notes how problems may arise regarding the monoclonal antibody treatment, particularly with the so-called South African variant.
Here we show that this lineage exhibits complete escape from three classes of therapeutically relevant monoclonal antibodies. Furthermore, 501Y.V2 shows substantial or complete escape from neutralizing antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma.¹
He believes the main issue regarding variants, namely UK, B.1.1.7, isn’t about vaccines or therapies, but whether or not it will become the dominant strain or whether “strains already here will prevent it from flourishing and being dominant.”
The CDC recently published a study estimating the B.1.1.7. variant will predominate in the U.S. by March.²
The only thing we know for sure is how mutations are bound to happen. Vaccination alone will not prevent that from happening. The only way to slow them down is to break the contagion chains and prevent the virus’s exponential spread.
Hence, we need to respect social distancing and maintain respiratory etiquette. Abiding by the best science-based policies, President Biden took action issuing an Executive Order on Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask-Wearing.
We can all pitch in and help the vaccination campaign win the fight against COVID-19. Dr. Fauci stated that if, and only if, 75% to 80% of Americans would be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the summer, we could begin to “approach a degree of normality” in the fall.
1 SARS-CoV-2 501Y.V2 escapes neutralization by South African COVID-19 donor plasma, Constantinos Kurt Wibmer, Frances Ayres, Tandile Hermanus, et al. bioRxiv.
2 Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 Lineage — United States, December 29, 2020–January 12, 2021. Summer E. Galloway, Ph.D.; Prabasaj Paul, Ph.D.; Duncan R. MacCannell, Ph.D.; Michael A. Johansson, Ph.D., CDC, 2021.
This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only. It only depicts my personal experience and should not be considered Health Advice. Please report to your local health authority for accurate and official guidance.
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