Area doctors say vaccines still effective against new coronavirus strains

NOW: Area doctors say vaccines still effective against new coronavirus strains

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The Moderna vaccine is expected to be delivered in Wisconsin this week, word of this comes as Britain and South Africa report new COVID-19 strains that may spread more easily.

With nearly 85,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine and 100,000 of Moderna’s being allocated to Wisconsin, would these new strains affect how well these vaccines work?

The Medical College of Wisconsin says viruses naturally mutate over time just like the flu, but it’s good the new coronavirus strains are mutating slower than flu viruses. New strains of the coronavirus isn’t a new phenomenon, a number of them have been discovered since the pandemic first hit.

“Early in the pandemic we heard about a mutation that started in Italy and then came to the U.S. called D614G and it does appear that it spreads slightly more easily,” said Dr. John Raymond, President and CEO, Medical College of Wisconsin.

United Kingdom Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, says the new strain recently reported in the U.K. is also easier to spread, but doctors say there’s no evidence that it’s more dangerous.

There may be a mutation in the coronavirus that makes it 70 percent more contagious, that’s what Boris Johnson said. It certainly seems possible it is the predominant strain, but it does not appear to make the disease any more severe or more lethal,” adds Dr. Raymond.

Doctors say the silver lining is new strains will not likely affect the efficacy of the vaccines currently authorized by the FDA. So far more than 10,300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been used in Wisconsin.

“The vaccines will work,” said Dr. Raymond. “These area minor mutations. The change may be one piece of protein, but they should still work.”

"The more people who are vaccinated we believe they won’t spread it, but we’re still not sure so we really need people to really practice you know washing their hands, keeping a distance and wearing a mask and avoiding crowds,” adds Dr. Laura Cassidy, Professor and Director in the Division of Epidemiology, Medical College of Wisconsin.

The World Health Organization says scientists are studying how the mutations affect the virus’ behavior.

“Protect ourselves because the virus really wants to be able to infect us,” said Dr. Raymond.

WHO says the bottom line is we need to do all we can to avoid spread of the coronavirus, because the more it spreads the more opportunity it has to change.

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