A Long Island resident in Nassau County has the first known case of the COVID-19 variant from South Africa, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday. The highly transmissible B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa, may reduce the effectiveness of some vaccines.
A study published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the ability of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine to neutralize the South African variant was diminished by two-thirds. In January, Moderna also said that its vaccine was less effective against the B.1.351 variant in lab experiments, but that its vaccine would still provide some degree of protection against the variant.
Drugmakers Novavax and Johnson & Johnson also announced at the end of January that their vaccine candidates, which have yet to be authorized for use by the FDA, appear to be significantly less effective against the South African variant. Their research does indicate their vaccines are holding up well against the original coronavirus and the U.K. variant, which Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), predicted could become the dominant COVID-19 strain in the U.S. by the end of March. The U.K. variant is currently doubling in the U.S. approximately every ten days, according to a study released on February 7th.