Trump Covid Vaccine Tsar Says Pfizer and Moderna photographs are extraordinarily unlikely to work towards new strains
Christy Ruffell, UCHealth Medical Center Clinical Care Standards Manager (left), delivers the Covid-19 vaccine to CNA Luis Perez (right) December 14, 2020 at UCHealth Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Helen H. Richardson | The Denver Post | Getty Images
President Donald Trump’s coronavirus vaccine tsar said Monday he expected Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 shots to be effective against a new mutation of the virus found in the UK
The comment came after the UK identified a new mutation of the virus on Saturday that can spread faster than previous variants. Countries like Italy, Germany, Canada and Israel have suspended flights from the UK after reports of the new strain.
The mutations involve changes in the spike protein that the virus uses to infect human cells. The vaccines induce an immune response against multiple structures around the spike protein, a multifunctional mechanism that allows the virus to invade the host, said Dr. Moncef Slaoui, scientific advisor to Trump’s Operation Warp Speed vaccination program, told reporters during a press conference. The likelihood that a set of mutations will completely change these structures “is extremely small,” he added.
Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine use messenger RNA or mRNA technology. It’s a new approach to vaccines that uses genetic material – in this case a harmless piece of spike protein – to trigger an immune response against the virus.
Herbie Severe will receive the Covid-19 vaccine with the first batch of Moderna’s vaccine on December 21, 2020 at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut.
Joseph Precious | AFP | Getty Images
Word Health Organization officials reiterated Monday that UK officials said the new variant could be up to 70% more transmissible than the original strain of the virus. Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a press conference it was unclear whether the increase in prevalence in the UK was due to the mutation or human behavior.
“We saw an estimate of a small increase in the number of reproductions in the UK,” he said, which means the virus is spreading faster, which could mean it is more contagious or easier to spread in colder months. It could also mean people are becoming careless when it comes to following public health protocols. “It remains to be seen how much of this is due to the specific genetic change in the new variant. I suspect some.”
Slaoui said he spoke to UK health officials about the new strain on Monday. To date, he said there is no “hard evidence” that the virus is more easily transmitted than the original strain of the disease.
“There is strong evidence that there is more of this in the population,” he said, adding that the emergence of the new strain is also due to the fact that scientists are now able to track variants of the virus more quickly. Before British scientists may not have looked for this variant and infections appeared in the “shadows”, he said.
A safe and effective vaccine is viewed by investors and policymakers as a solution to getting the global economy back on track after the pandemic wreaked havoc in almost every country in the world and in emerging businesses.
Americans are expected to receive some of the first shots of Moderna’s vaccine on Monday after the Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine for emergency use on Friday. The US will distribute 5.9 million doses of the vaccine across the country this week, as well as 2 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved for emergency use on Dec. 11, health officials said Monday.
Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said Monday the US is now on the “offensive” against the virus, which has killed more than 310,000 Americans in less than a year. He said he plans to have Moderna’s vaccine “in the coming days” to demonstrate that the shots are safe and effective.
–CNBC’s Will Feuer contributed to this report.