Covid vaccines still trump variants, say top US scientists

WASHINGTON: In the race between vaccines and Covid-19 causing virus variants, the shots are still ahead of the curve, top US scientists are saying, notwithstanding reports of the variants causing fatalities in India even among those who have had two doses of vaccines.

Top American pandemic advisors maintained this week that vaccines currently being administered in the US- Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna- are effective against the B1617 and the B117 variants of the virus, amid urgent calls to ramp up Washington’s modest vaccine aid to India. British researchers have said the Astra-Zeneca vaccine (Covishield in India) is also effective against the variants.

“The modest neutralization resistance to the 617 antibodies suggests that the current vaccines that we are all using that we’ve been speaking about would be at least partially and probably be quite protective,” Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told reporters during a news conference on Tuesday.

The endorsement for current vaccines came amid reports that fully vaccinated people, including nine members of New York Yankees team, getting infected by the virus, although only one was seriously affected. But in another widely reported case from India, the virus proved fatal to Dr KK Agarwal, a prominent physician.
The broad consensus in the scientific community appears to be the vaccine, while by no means a fool proof magic bullet, mitigates the suffering of Covid-19 victims in the case of the virus breaking through.
US scientists and public health officials are pressing for fully vaccinating the country’s population before more transmissible variants take hold, even as some prominent activists are suggesting that the Biden administration prioritize getting the vaccines across to high-risk older-age population in other countries such as India before vaccinating America’s young.

The well-known civil rights leader Rev Jesse Jackson is among those who is backing the call of American physicians of Indian-origin pressing the Biden administration to give to India at least 60 million of the 80 million vaccines the President has pledged to the global community.
“COVID-19 knows no national boundaries. It does not discriminate by race, religion or ideology. The pandemic poses a threat to humanity, not to any one country. Our response must be as encompassing as the threat,” Rev Jackson said on Wednesday in an appeal to the President.


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