Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 vaccines may not be as effective against new variants, Fauci says

Pfizer and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines may not be as effective against the coronavirus variants that have appeared in other countries, including the U.K. and South Africa, Anthony Fauci, MD, the White House health adviser told CNBC Jan. 21.

Some early studies indicate that the coronavirus variant first found in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, can evade antibodies provided by some treatments and may reduce the efficacy of the current vaccines, CNBC reported. 

The variant shows substantial or complete escape from antibodies found in COVID-19 convalescent plasma, researchers with South Africa's National Institute for Communicable Diseases wrote in one study, according to CNBC. The finding may mean the vaccines will be less effective as well. 

A separate study printed in bioRxiv by Pfizer and BioNTech scientists found that the vaccine was likely just as effective against the U.K. variant as the original coronavirus. 

Health experts told CNBC that because both Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines are so highly effective, there is room for some dip in their effectiveness. 

"We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless, not something that we don’t think we can handle," Dr. Fauci said, according to CNBC.

A dip in the vaccines' effectiveness is "all the more reason why we should be vaccinating as many people as you possibly can," he added.

Virus variants can be stopped if enough people are immune to the virus that it can't spread and mutate anymore, according to Dr. Fauci. 

Dr. Fauci also told CNBC that it wouldn't be too challenging to modify the vaccines if necessary to boost their efficacy against the new variants. 

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