Pfizer, Moderna vaccines could protect against India COVID variant: Fauci

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A concerning strain of the coronavirus first detected in India will likely be thwarted by the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in the US, health officials said Tuesday.

The more contagious India variant, B.1.617.2 was called a “variant of concern” in the UK and it’s now made its way into the US.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci said early data suggests that the two-dose vaccines already in use are “at least partially and probably” protective against the India variant and other strains.

Data from several studies in recent days showed the vaccines maintained antibodies against a wide range of variants for as long as six months, Fauci said at a Tuesday White House COVID-19 briefing.

He added the encouraging data showed the effectiveness “well within the cushion effect” to protect against infections and serious sickness.

“So in summary, this is just another example of the scientific data accruing…indicating another very strong reason why we should be getting vaccinated,” Fauci said during the briefing, held virtually.

The India variant is expected to become the dominant strain in the UK, English health officials have said.

A race is on in the UK to contain the variant, which already ravaged India with a catastrophic number of cases. UK health experts fear the strain could kill as many as 1,000 people per day and may be 50 percent more transmissible than the 2020 strain.

Containment efforts may also run counter to the country’s effort to lift coronavirus restrictions.

“If the virus is significantly more transmissible, we are likely to face some hard choices,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told reporters last week.

“I have to level with you that this could be a serious disruption to our progress.”

Moderna recently announced the results of a clinical trial that showed getting a third shot of its vaccine boosted its effectiveness against variants first identified in Brazil and South Africa.

In its announcement, the company said it was positioned to tweak its vaccine as new mutations emerged.

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