The first known US cases of a new coronavirus variant from South Africa were reported in South Carolina yesterday. While data on the new strain is still emerging, researchers have expressed concern that the virus may be more transmissible or partially resistant to current vaccines. Meanwhile, both Pfizer and Moderna have said that their vaccines do produce neutralizing antibodies for the South African variant, with Pfizer observing a “slightly lower” neutralization and Moderna seeing a larger decline but noting that its vaccine remains “above levels that are expected to be protective.”
More context: While viruses often change and mutate, the South African variant (B.1.351) is one of three that has received recent focus from health officials (in addition to variants originating in the UK and Brazil).
Extra: Here’s an explainer on the coronavirus variants.