Adjusting COVID-19 vaccines to cover new coronavirus variants

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Doctor Anthony Fauci said "we have to be concerned looking forward of what future evolution might be" at the first official COVID-19 press briefing with the Biden Administration.

He says as coronavirus adapts and changes, we have to be prepared for the potential impact on the vaccine. So far, the vaccine still works against these new variants, but studies show it's less effective against the predominant variant in South Africa.

"The vaccine still works, but not as well so that's a big concern," said Doctor Drew Weissman, a researcher at Penn Medicine.

He laid the groundwork for mRNA vaccines, the technique used in Pfizer's and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines. He says they can be changed quickly in about six weeks to adjust to new variants.

"It's literally plug and play, once you have the sequence of a new variant, you put it in the same RNA the original virus comes from and you made a new vaccine," said Dr. Weissman. "The only thing we don't know is what the FDA would say."

He says the FDA could extend the authorization or require new clinical trials which would add time.

What's clear now is as the virus continues to spread worldwide, it will continue to change. The best defense is getting more people vaccinated as soon as possible.

"Because that's what's going to slow down new variants from appearing," said Dr. Weissman.
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