Dr. Fauci: Covid shots are less effective against new variant – it's 'a wake up call'

Dr. Fauci said today that the US needs to speed up its vaccination efforts, after the news that two of the new Covid vaccinations – Johnson & Johnson and Novavax – were found to be less effective against the new Covid variant from South Africa. The new variant was first detected in the United States yesterday, in two unrelated people in South Carolina.

From Business Insider:

He [Dr. Fauci] spoke on a conference call that the National Institutes of Health held to discuss data on Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine. J&J said its vaccine was 66% effective at preventing moderate and severe cases of COVID-19 overall, but less effective in South Africa, where a virus variant is spreading. Novavax on Thursday said its coronavirus vaccine was also less effective against that coronavirus variant.

And from The Washington Post:

The Novavax data surprised and disappointed scientists, who said it is the latest sign that the new mutation-laden variants pose a challenge for vaccine makers and complicate the battle to crush the pandemic. The company's results provide the first glimpse of how any coronavirus vaccine protects against two mutated versions of the virus that rapidly became dominant in the United Kingdom and South Africa and then spread across the world.

"The South African variant is looking like it's going to be a far more complicating factor than we had hoped," said Peter Jay Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, who is developing a different coronavirus vaccine and said his team has already designed one against the South African variant.

The Novavax vaccine was highly effective — 89 percent — in a trial where the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, known as B.1.1.7, was highly prevalent. But its efficacy dropped to 49 percent in a smaller and less definitive South Africa trial, where the vast majority of infections were from a different variant that is spreading there, known as B. 1.351.

Earlier in the week, The New York Times reported that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are also less effective against the new variant.

"It's really a wake-up call for us to be nimble and to be able to adjust as this virus will continue for certain to evolve and mutate," Dr. Fauci said. "The best way to prevent further evolution of a virus is to prevent it from replicating, and you do that by vaccinating people as quickly as you possibly can."

Image by Tmaximumge / Pxhere