NPR

Can Vaccines Stop Variants? Here's What We Know So Far

One of the hottest areas of research right now: studies to determine how well current vaccines work against emerging coronavirus "variants of concern."
A scientist works on COVID-19 samples to find variations of the virus at the Croix-Rousse Hospital laboratory in Lyon, France, in January. Source: Jeff Pachoud

It's official: This week U.S. health authorities announced that the mutant strain of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom last winter is now the predominant strain in the United States. And it's been found in at least 130 other countries as well.

On a reassuring note, officials said there's strong evidence all three vaccines approved for use in the U.S. — Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — offer good protection against this variant, especially against severe disease. There's also similar evidence starting to accumulate when it comes to additional vaccines being used or considered by other countries.

But this strain is just one of three "variants of concern" at large in the U.S. and a broad swath of other countries. One of the other variants, first identified in South Africa and dominant there, has now and has also been found across the Americas.

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