Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press conference in the James S. Brady press briefing room at the White House in Washington on Thursday, January 21, 2021.
Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Pfizer and ModernaThe current Covid-19 vaccines can be easily adapted to new strains of the virus, which drug manufacturers are already working on, said White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, on Wednesday.
New strains of the coronavirus have emerged in the UK, South Africa and Brazil, which is a cause for concern among scientists. While it’s no surprise that the virus is mutating, researchers are quick to figure out what the changes could mean for recently developed life-saving vaccines and treatments for the disease.
Some early insights published on the preprint server bioRxiv, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggest that the variant identified in South Africa, known by scientists as the B.1.351 strain, is dodging the antibodies of some coronavirus treatments and reducing the effectiveness of the currently available line of vaccines can. Fauci told CNN in an interview that it was very similar to the new strain in Brazil.
There is some good news, though: the newly developed mRNA technology used to make Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines makes it easier to adapt to the new strains, Fauci said. He added that drug manufacturers are already working on so-called “booster” shots targeting the variant found in South Africa that appears to be more problematic than the others.
“We are already trying to get a step or two ahead of the game so that when we actually have a situation where the South African strain is here – it’s here but it is certainly not dominant so that you can really achieve something.” from a protection standpoint, “said Fauci.” You’re going to want a vaccine that works specifically against this strain. “
Earlier on Wednesday, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said Federal agencies would work together to study how effective Covid-19 vaccines are against mutated virus strains. While the authorized ones remain highly effective against the strain B.1.1.7 first identified in Great Britain, with the strain B.1.351 “things get a little more problematic”.
Even then, both vaccines have been shown to be 95% effective in preventing Covid-19 in clinical studies, which allows for a bit of cushion where the vaccines will still work if one of the variants reduces its effectiveness, the infectious disease expert said .
You don’t have to start from scratch to test the effectiveness of the booster vaccines, Fauci said. The booster vaccinations don’t have to go through the same large-scale clinical trials that were required for the original vaccines to receive emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December, he said, adding that they will come with a “rapid phase one” Try instead.
“You don’t have to do a 30,000 person process or a 40,000 person process,” said Fauci. “You work with the FDA and can bridge information from one study to the next. The bottom line is that we’re already at it.”
Moderna announced on Monday that its Covid-19 vaccine may be less effective against the B.1.351 strain in South Africa, and that the company is accelerating work on a booster shot in order to protect this variant “out of caution”.
Pfizer said on Tuesday that, according to a Reuters report. A company spokesperson was not immediately available to respond to Fauci’s comments.
– CNBC’s Will Feuer and Berkeley Lovelace Jr. contributed to this report.