Fauci Says Vaccines Still Protect Against New Coronavirus Variants
Even though some of the variants impact antibody efficacy, the vaccines will still work thanks to the all-important “cushion effect”
The first press briefing from the Biden administration to include Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, received a lot of attention for the jokes, smiles, and pointed questions about the previous president.
However, the focus of Fauci’s comments on the pandemic itself was no laughing matter. The nation’s top infectious disease expert went into detail about the new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that are now circulating in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil. Of key importance was what the three variants could mean for the Covid-19 vaccines slowly being rolled out around the world.
Fauci opened by stating, “We need to understand that RNA viruses like coronaviruses mutate all the time. Most of the mutations don’t have any physiological relevance with regard to the function of the virus itself. However, every once in a while you get mutations, either singly or clustered in combinations, which do have an impact.”
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The big question, Fauci says, is whether the current variants are mutated in a way that would hamper the efficacy of the antibodies that the vaccines prompt the body to make in order to fight off the virus.
“Since monoclonal antibodies bind to a very specific part of the virus, when there’s a mutation there, it has a much greater chance of obliterating the efficacy of a monoclonal antibody,” he says.
The variant that originated in the U.K., which has been identified in more than 20 states in the U.S., does not appear to be mutated in a way that significantly impacts the antibodies. But, Fauci says, mutations on the similar variants found in South African and Brazil — which have not yet been found in the U.S. — could help the virus avoid the…