COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective against some variants of concern, experts still encourage vaccination

Coronavirus Updates
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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Three new coronavirus mutations were recently found in the United States. Vaccine research suggests the shot may be less effective against some variants, but local experts say it’s still important to get vaccinated.

Manufacturers of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are reporting their shots are to remain effective against the United Kingdom variant of the coronavirus. But it’s believed the vaccines are less effective against the highly transmissible South Africa and Brazil variants.

Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious disease physician at Intermountain Healthcare said the two vaccines are mRNA-created. And when researchers have tested the U.K. strain against the vaccine, it creates neutralizing antibodies.

When researchers tested the Brazilian and South African strains against the vaccines, he explained how it differs from the other.

“The folks who’ve had the vaccine and when they’ve tested against those virus strains, they saw lower, tighter, neutralizing antibodies,” Vento said. “So, less effective than the earlier strains, but still a level that would get you immunity.”

Although reports suggest there may be less vaccine efficacy, local infectious disease experts said there’s more to it than that.

“We have to look at that data and say, ‘72% against symptomatic COVID, but a higher percent effectiveness against having COVID that will put you in the hospital or risk your death,’” said Dr. Todd Vento, an infectious disease physician at Intermountain Healthcare.

“It does seem to blunt the severity of disease and prevent infection – which I think we need to recognize as a real important goal of COVID,” said Dr. Emily Spivak, a University of Utah Health Division of Infectious Diseases associate professor.

If given the opportunity, Vento and Spivak said Utahns should get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The more people are vaccinated, the more antibody and immunity we can spread throughout the population, the less replication of this virus and the less mutation replication is there,” Spivak said.

“We should absolutely get the vaccine because they’ve been shown to prevent symptomatic COVID, severe COVID, hospitalizations from COVID, and that’s what we still want,” Vento said.

While new variants are inevitable with a virus, Vento and Spivak said in the years to come, a booster shot may be needed.

“I do suspect however, that the impact of COVID-19 and the severity of illness will diminish over time as we get more people vaccinated,” Spivak said.

Both, Pfizer and Moderna report they will begin testing booster shots to amp up an immune response to the variants.

By March, national health experts believe the U.K. mutation of COVID-19 will become the dominant strain.

Spivak said with the new variants, it’s possible Utah could have another surge in COVID-19 cases if vaccination efforts slow down and Utahns don’t practice public health measures.

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