New research this week provides reassuring evidence that people vaccinated against coronavirus are protected from new variants of the virus.
Two teams tested two of the new variants against blood from people who had received the full two-course dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
While the mutations in the new variants of the virus – one for the first time in the UK and one for the first time in South Africa – allowed them to evade some of the immunity generated by the vaccination, this was far from a complete escape, the two teams reported separately .
A team led by Dr. Michel Nussenzweig of Rockefeller University tested plasma from 20 people who received two doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech or Moderna vaccine as part of clinical studies.
They found that the vaccines elicited strong antibody responses and cells that keep making new antibodies over months or years.
“We measured their antibody responses to the wild-type virus. Then we took their plasmas and measured them against the variants,” Nussenzweig told CNN.
Wild-type virus is the collective term for generally circulating viruses that hasn’t been changed enough to be called a variant.
Various mutations in the viruses allowed some escape of some types of antibodies, but the volunteers’ bodies threw an army of different types of antibodies on the viruses, the team reported in a pre-printed study – non peer review – published online.
“If you start putting all these antibody mixes together, it means you can work on the variants together,” said Nussenzweig. Although they had a diminished effect, the overall response was so overwhelming that it shouldn’t matter, he said.
“What we really want to do with these vaccines is keep people out of the hospital. They most likely are doing this regardless,” added Nussenzweig.
Eventually the vaccines should be updated – but the new mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna can be changed very quickly. “Should the vaccines be optimized?” he asked. “Probably – but that doesn’t mean they’re not effective.”
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