Vaccines may be less effective when it comes to the newly discovered COVID-19 variants.
Reuters reports that the variant found in South Africa – dubbed 501Y.V2 – may be able to evade antibodies developed in response to the vaccination or infection with the original version of the virus.
On Wednesday, scientists noted that while more research is needed, evidence is growing that new variants may “reduce the efficacy” of the existing vaccines. This means that vaccines won’t provide as much protection and those who have already been infected with COVID-19 could get reinfected again with the new strain.
“Furthermore, 501Y.V2 shows substantial or complete escape from neutralising antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma,” the team of scientists from three South African universities working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) wrote in a paper published in the bioRxiv journal.
The conclusion stated that there was a possibility of “reinfection” and that it “may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”
The strain, which has already spread to at least 20 countries since it was reported in December, is said to be 50% more infectious than previous strains.
The outlet notes it is solely responsible for the second wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa.
Researchers noted they would see how effective the vaccine was against the strain through “large-scale” clinical trials. However, early suggestions showed a need for vaccines to specifically tackle the evolving strains.
He noted that “vaccine effectiveness is diminished but still effective.”
When asked if people should not bother vaccinating, Fauci said that though it’s less impactful against the new strains, the vaccine might fall from 95% effective to 80% effective, which still offers more protection than going unvaccinated.
Several other strains have been discovered in recent month including B.1.1.7, first identified in the United Kingdom.
The variant has been spreading quickly in the U.S and it will likely become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March if nothing is done to stop it, the Centers for Disease Control announced.
Fauci confirmed that B.1.1.7 is more transmissible but not more deadly. He noted this will lead to more cases and more hospitalizations and ultimately, “more death.”