Covid Variants, Vaccine Supply Pose Challenges

Jan 19, 2021

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A variant of the coronavirus that has been seen in other countries and states is now popping up more often in California.

Experts say they don’t know if it is more contagious, but there is some concern that vaccines may not work as well against it.

Stephanie Silvera, public health professor at Montclair State University, said that may prove not to be a serious problem because of the technology used in these vaccines. “They’re more plug and play than our older more traditional vaccines,” she said, “so in theory you could make new vaccines for new strains fairly quickly, however, they would still have to go through that safety approval from regulators and that would be sort of where the bottleneck would be most likely to occur.”

She also points out that the Covid vaccines have an unusually high effectiveness rate of about 95%, so even if a variant puts a dent in that, the vaccines would still be very effective.

Along with variants of the virus, vaccine supply is a problem. With word from the federal government that vaccine reserves promised to states simply aren’t there, experts say it may be many months before enough people are vaccinated to achieve herd immunity and a return to some kind of normalcy. But Silvera said help may be on the way.

“The one glimmer of hope that may be still out there is that it looks like the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is likely to be moving forward with their attempts to get their emergency use authorization and that’s a one-dose vaccine,” she pointed out, which would obviously speed up the process of achieving immunity.

Johnson and Johnson said the results of the Phase 3 trial of its vaccine, which will show how effective it is, are due out in late January.