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Vaccines Versus Variants

Two studies find that the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is highly effective against viral variants, while Moderna says a booster it developed appears effective against viral variants.

The New York Times reports that researchers in Qatar and Israel examined real-world data to gauge how well the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine worked against the B.1.1.7 and B.1.351 variants. The Qatari team reports in the New England Journal of Medicine that the Pfizer-BioNTech SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was between 87 percent and 89.5 percent effective against the B.1.1.7 variant and between 72 percent and 75 percent effective against the B.1.351 variant. Meanwhile, the Israeli team reports in the Lancet that the vaccine was 95.3 percent effective against SARS-CoV-2 infection during a time when the B.1.1.7 variant was the predominant strain in Israel.

At the same time, the Guardian reports that Moderna has announced that a booster shot it has developed appears to be effective against viral variants. According to the Guardian, Moderna tested both a third dose of its initial SARS-CoV-2 vaccine as well as an updated booster aimed specifically at variants in a small trial of 40 people who had previously received its vaccine. While both shots led to an increase in neutralizing antibodies in the blood when exposed to the viral variants, the new booster version led to a higher level of antibodies, the Guardian adds. The Times notes that the company plans to post its results, which have not been peer-reviewed, to BioRxiv.

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