Should you be concerned about the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine against the South African variant?

COVID-19 vaccines Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Moderna (NASDAQ: ARNM) are distributed across the United States (and around the world, for that matter). But these vaccines received emergency use authorization before the emergence of new coronavirus variants. One of these variants, first identified in South Africa, could be especially problematic.

In this Motley Fool Live video registered on February 1Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Danny Vena discuss whether or not Americans should be concerned about the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine against the new South African variant.

Danny Vena: Keith, the next question that pops up here, and I was curious about that as well. Is there any reason to be concerned about the lower efficacy rates of these vaccines against this variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa? Will this necessarily prolong the pandemic? Or are people more at risk? Can you explain this to us?

Keith Speights: Yes. I think Danny, there is a reason to worry, but not a reason to worry.

The vaccines, at least the two we’ve seen that had results that included data on the newer variants, especially the South African variant, the efficacy of these vaccines is lower with the South African variant. It is a concern.

In fact, at least two of the companies are working to test a booster dose, and even a bivalent version of their vaccine that specifically targets the South African variant. So this hope that can strengthen their effectiveness against it. It’s a concern, and obviously otherwise these companies wouldn’t be looking to do more clinical studies if it wasn’t a concern.

I’m not worried at the moment, as 60% efficiency is still very good. Like we said, that’s pretty much what we get with the flu shots. I think it can help curb the spread. It might take us longer to get collective immunity if the South African variant becomes even more prevalent, which it could. But I’m not worried at this point.

Now, could we see other variations that would make these vaccines much less effective? Yes. The answer is yes. Other mutations could occur.

The good news is that the new technologies we have, especially with these messenger RNA vaccines, are making it possible to develop vaccines very quickly using mRNA technology. I think we’ll maybe play a little mole game for a while. But at least we’ve got the hammer to hit them all [laughs]. This is perhaps the best analogy.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a premium Motley Fool consulting service. We are motley! Questioning an investment thesis – even one of our own – helps us all to think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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