According to a new research conducted by US scientists, the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines should continue to be highly effective against two coronavirus variants first discovered in India.
The NYU Grossman School of Medicine and NYU Langone Center conducted the lab-based research, which is considered preliminary since it has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"What we find is that the vaccine's antibodies are a little bit weaker against the variants, but not enough to affect the vaccines' protective potential," said senior author Nathaniel "Ned" Landau.
The researchers took blood sample from people who had one of the two vaccines, which are widely used in the United States and have been administered to more than 150 million people. They then exposed these samples in the lab to engineered pseudovirus particles containing mutations in the coronavirus's "spike" region that were specific to either the B.1.617 or B.1.618 variants, which were first discovered in India.
Overall, they discovered a nearly four-fold reduction in the amount of neutralizing antibodies — Y-shaped proteins generated by the immune system to prevent pathogens from entering cells — for B.1.617. The reduction was roughly threefold for B.1.618.
In other words, certain antibodies no longer function against the variants, but there are still a lot of antibodies that do, Landau explained.
"Since the overall levels remain well above those observed in samples taken from people who recovered from infection with an earlier unmutated virus, we believe the vaccines will be highly safe," he added.
However, a lab study alone can not predict how effective a product will be in the real world; that will have to be determined by additional research.
"Our findings give us faith that current vaccines can protect against the variants that have been reported so far," the researchers concluded.