There’s more evidence the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant first noticed in the UK poses little threat to the efficacy of vaccines.
Research published Thursday shows while that variant can hide a little bit from the immune system, it’s not enough to decrease the value of vaccines significantly – and it doesn’t threaten to re-infect people who have recovered from the previous dominant variant of the virus.
“These findings indicate that variant B.1.1.7 is unlikely to be a major concern for current vaccines or for an increased risk of reinfection,” they wrote in their report, published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe.
David Montefiori of the Duke University School of Medicine and colleagues tested the variant against blood taken from people who had received the Moderna vaccine, the experimental vaccine being developed by Novavax, and against blood from people who had recovered from coronavirus infection before the variant started circulating.
While there was a small effect of the mutation, it wasn’t enough to suggest the variant could elude the protection offered by vaccines or the immunity that develops after people recover from infection.
“While this is encouraging, it is becoming increasingly clear that SARS-CoV-2 continues to evolve and that new variants may arise that pose a greater risk for immune escape,” they wrote.
Other new variants that have been flagged for concern include the B.1.351 variant first seen in South Africa, one spreading in California called B.1.429, and one that has spread quickly in Brazil called P.1.
The best way to protect against these is to get people fully vaccinated as quickly as possible, they said. “Receiving the second dose in a timely manner is encouraged for maximum efficacy in regions where the B.1.1.7 variant circulates,” they wrote.