The study confirms previous lab studies Pfizer announced of the variants originating in the U.K. (B.1.1.7) and South African (B.1.351), but the study also shows effectiveness in protecting against the variant originating in Brazil (P.1).
Health experts have recently concluded among the concerning variants, B.1.351 is the most important as it shows the greatest decrease in protection — though still at acceptable levels. B.1.1.7, meanwhile, spreads more rapidly and is likely to be the most dominant strain, replacing the original strain from China, in the U.S. Currently, more than 3,000 cases of this strain have been identified.
But as with previous data showing laboratory tests of the vaccine effects on variants, it can only be taken as an indication, with real-world data needed.
“Ultimately, conclusions about vaccine-mediated protection that are extrapolated from neutralization or T-cell data must be validated by real-world evidence collected in regions where the SARS-CoV-2 variants are circulating,” the researchers said in the study.
Real-world evidence is currently being studied, but the next-best data has come from late-stage clinical trials by Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Novavax (NVAX) in the U.K. and South Africa. The results were similar, with B.1.351 showing the most concerning declines.
Meanwhile, with more Americans being vaccinated daily, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new guidelines for vaccinated individuals in order to allow in-person meetings.
Notably, as long as one household is fully vaccinated, if meeting with other vaccinated households, or with unvaccinated households with low risk of contracting COVID-19, masks can be taken off.
However, if a vaccinated household is meeting with an unvaccinated household in which there are people at high risk for contracting COVID-19, mitigation steps like masks, distancing and proper ventilation are still required. This is because there is still ongoing research into how well vaccines protect against transmission of the virus even after taking effect.
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A fully vaccinated person, according to the CDC, must wait two full weeks after getting the second of two doses for the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna (MRNA) vaccines or two full weeks after the single shot of J&J’s vaccine.
The move has been hailed by health experts as a step in the right direction, with many noting it is just the first of many updates expected.
“CDC totally gets it right. Broader public health measures should remain for now because lots of high risk folks are not yet vaccinated,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s school of public health, on Twitter.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky emphasized that point at a White House COVID-19 Response Team briefing Monday.
“Still, over 90% of our population is not vaccinated,” Walensky said. “Today’s action represents an important first step, it is not our final destination. As more people get vaccinated … and as our understanding of COVID immunity improves, we look forward to updating these recommendations to the public.”
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Follow Anjalee on Twitter @AnjKhem.
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