How do the vaccines work with the new COVID-19 variants? Hear the latest on the coronavirus

News 12's Elizabeth Hashagen was joined by Dr. Hugh Cassere this morning to talk about the new coronavirus variant and the latest on vaccines.

News 12 Staff

Jan 25, 2021, 2:54 PM

Updated 1,269 days ago


Vaccine shortages and frustrations continue as we start a new week. It is only Monday, and New York has already used 88% of its weekly vaccine allocation.
Another vaccine delivery is not expected before the middle of the week. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the problem is lack of supply from the federal government.
As News 12 reported, President Joe Biden is vowing to get 100 million people vaccinated in the first 100 days of his presidency. But the new director of the CDC says it might be the end of March, before the vaccine production is scaled up dramatically.
People across the tri-state are still scrambling to get the shot. Those those who live in New Jersey, and don't have a computer, can now call to make an appointment for a coronavirus vaccine. The hotline number is 855-568-0545.
In just a few hours, President Biden will reinstate COVID-19 travel restrictions lifted by former President Donald Trump. That means anyone who is not an American citizen and has recently visited Brazil, South Africa and most of Europe will not be allowed into the U.S. President Biden is also expected to sign a mask mandate on mass transit today.
British officials say one COVID-19 variant found in the country could be more deadly than earlier versions. Some fear this version of the virus could also make people sicker or cause the vaccines less effective. A recent CDC model shows the new variant could become the predominant form of coronavirus by March.
News 12's Elizabeth Hashagen was joined by Dr. Hugh Cassere this morning to talk about the new coronavirus variant and the latest on vaccines. Dr. Cassere is the chief of the division of critical care medicine at Northwell Health.
All viruses naturally gain mutations, so these variants are normal and expected. Increased virus shedding, when you cough, sneeze, talk or sing, little droplets of mucus and saliva go into the air. If you are infected with COVID-19, these droplets will contain the coronavirus. If you are infected with a variant that increases transmission, there could be more virus in each of these droplets.
Preliminary data from the U.K. suggests people infected with the new variant tended to have higher viral loads, meaning they had more volume of virus in their noses, which could be measured using a nasal swab.
Each time a new variant is discovered, researchers will need to characterize the variant to understand what the mutations do, and how they could alter the course of the pandemic.
Below is what Dr. Cassere says about variants and mutations:
Moderna says it's working on a COVID-19 booster shot for the variant in South Africa. The vaccine generated a weaker immune response against the South African strain, but the antibodies remained above levels that are expected to be protective against the virus, the company said, adding the findings may suggest "a potential risk of earlier waning of immunity to the new B.1.351 strains."
"Out of an abundance of caution and leveraging the flexibility of our mRNA platform, we are advancing an emerging variant booster candidate against the variant first identified in the Republic of South Africa into the clinic to determine if it will be more effective to boost titers against this and potentially future variants," Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said in a statement.
There are only a handful of drugs which have been scientifically proven to treat COVID-19 and reduce death rates, including the cheap steroid Dexamethasone and the anti-inflammatory drug. Will these drugs still work in the new variants? Below is what Dr. Cassere says:
With multiple new strains of the coronavirus now detected in the U.S., should you be upgrading your face coverings, or even wearing double masks? This morning Dr. Fauci weighed in saying, "It just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective."

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