(CNN) — Pfizer and Moderna are testing their coronavirus vaccines to see if they work against the new mutated variant of the virus that has recently been found in the UK and other countries, according to company statements.
‘Based on the data to date, we expect that the immunity induced by the Moderna vaccine will protect against the variants recently described in the UK; We will carry out additional tests in the coming weeks to confirm this expectation, ”according to Moderna. statement.
Pfizer said it is now “generating data” on how well blood samples from people immunized with its vaccine “can neutralize the new UK variant.”
The new coronavirus has mutated before, and both companies say they have found that their vaccines worked against other variants of the virus.
The two companies’ statements reflect growing global concern over a new variant of the novel coronavirus that has spread rapidly across the UK.
Experts are unsure of the significance of this mutation, however several countries, including Canada, have imposed restrictions on travelers from the UK.
The United States has not done so, but the White House is considering requiring travelers from the United Kingdom to submit a negative coronavirus test before arriving in the United States, two administration officials told CNN on Monday.
US Chief Health Officer Jerome Adams said the UK variant “doesn’t change what we have to do” when it comes to staying protected.
“What is important for people to understand, as this does not change what we have to do,” he said. “We need to wear masks, wash our hands, watch our distances and put meetings on pause, and we need to get vaccinated, vaccinated when they are available to us.”
With variant or not, the United States has not been able to limit the spread of covid-19 as it is. Monday’s winter solstice marked the darkest day of the year and provided a clear metaphor for this period of the pandemic. The United States reported 191,000 new COVID-19 cases and 1,700 new deaths on Monday, while more than 115,000 people were hospitalized with the virus, a new record.
Outbreaks are also not limited to any one region, as was previously the case in the pandemic. Adjusted for population, the states with the most new cases in the past week are Tennessee, California and Rhode Island, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
However, as the days get longer and the renewal of spring approaches, so will the promise of widespread vaccinations. More than 614,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And tens of millions more are expected in the coming months.
LOOK: You have to receive both doses of the vaccine to be protected against covid-19, explains Dr. Lobelo
Dr. Fauci says the variant is probably in the US.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday that the UK variant of the coronavirus is likely already in the US.
“You have to make that assumption,” Fauci told PBS Newshour’s Judy Woodruff on Monday.
“When you see something that is quite prevalent in a place like the UK, there are also mutations that we are seeing in South Africa, and given travel around the world, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was already here.”
‘It is certainly not predominant yet, in the way that it seems to have assumed that predominant nature in the UK, but we will look for it right now. And I’m sure that sooner or later we are going to run to him and find him, “he added.
Mutations in the virus are not out of the ordinary and most don’t have a noticeable impact, Fauci said. Researchers are still trying to determine if the UK variant is more transmissible, but Fauci said it does not appear to have any impact on the lethality of the virus.
Fauci said he believes a UK travel ban is premature because there is insufficient evidence to justify it. He said he prefers to consider mandatory testing of UK travelers.
Some researchers who are examining the genome of the UK variant told CNN that they are concerned that mutations in this variant may slightly decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine.
“You could imagine a modest impact on the efficacy of the vaccine, which would not be good, but I don’t think it will break the vaccine,” said Trevor Bedford, associate professor in the division of vaccines and infectious diseases at the Fred Cancer Research Center. Hutchinson.
However, other experts have been skeptical of any impact on vaccines.
“It doesn’t make people sick any more and it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the protective nature of the vaccine we’re currently using,” Fauci said.
Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said during a news conference Monday that there is “no strong evidence” that the variant is more transmissible.
“There is clear evidence that there is more to the population,” he said. ‘Either due to increased transmission capacity or due to the fact that we can now sequence all the time and see the virus, whereas when we were seeding the population in the south-east of the UK, we weren’t, or they weren’t looking for this particular variant. ‘
LEE: Fauci says he would advise against additional restrictions on travel from the UK, which is dealing with a new variant of the coronavirus
More than 600,000 vaccines administered
In just over a week since vaccination began in the US, more than 4.6 doses of vaccines have been delivered and about 614,000 doses have been administered, according to the CDC.
The first round of doses has been given to people in assisted living facilities, federal officials, and healthcare workers like Dr. Joseph Varon.
Varon, an intensive care physician and chief of staff at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, was one of the first to receive a dose of Moderna vaccine, which the FDA cleared for emergency use Friday.
“This is like having gold,” Dr. Joseph Varon told CNN on Monday, holding up a box of doses. “I don’t cry, but I was very close … Do you know how many lives you can save with this?”
Moderna and Pfizer vaccines were shown to be approximately 95% effective in clinical trials and have minimal differences for the person receiving the injection.
The first doses of Moderna’s vaccine were shipped to more than 3,500 sites in the US, compared to more than 600 Pfizer sites. In total, 7.9 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer will be distributed this week in the US, General Gustave Perna of Operation Warp Speed said Monday.
One of the people distributing the vaccine is Todd Elble, a UPS tow driver whose father died of COVID-19.
“I know my dad is smiling at us right now,” she said.
CNN’s Jeremy Diamond, Andrea Diaz, Shelby Lin Erdman, and Naomi Thomas contributed to this report.
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