While emerging coronavirus variants remain a threat, health experts said they are hopeful that rising vaccination rates and continued wearing of masks can blunt the potential new waves.
There are indeed concerns about whether the immunity offered by vaccines will be less effective against some coronavirus variants, including the strain first identified in South Africa, B.1.351, and the homegrown California strain, B.1.427/B.1.429.
Researchers at UC San Francisco said that in lab tests, the California strain was more resistant to the effects of neutralizing antibodies that are generated by the immune system in response to COVID-19 vaccines or by a previous coronavirus infection. Compared with other variants, the protection provided by the antibodies was reduced by a “moderate … but significant” amount, the UCSF researchers said.
When the neutralizing antibodies went up against the homegrown strain, their effectiveness was cut in half. By comparison, when these antibodies encountered the coronavirus strain that’s now dominant in South Africa, their effectiveness was reduced to one-sixth of their usual levels.
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