The B.1.1.7 British COVID variant is sweeping across the United States. How will vaccines fare?

Credit: Little Village
Credit: Little Village

The B.1.1.7 variant, first spotted in the UK, is not only more easily transmitted, but it also appears to be more deadly. Dr. Anthony Fauci warned about it [March 19] in a White House coronavirus update.

It was first spotted in Colorado at the end of December, said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to President Biden.

“Since then it has been detected in 50 jurisdictions in the United States, and likely accounts now for about 20 to 30% of the infections in this country. And that number is growing,” Fauci said.


Fauci pointed to one study showing a 64% increased risk of death for people infected with B.1.1.7 compared to those infected with the older, so-called wild-type variant. 

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Real-life use of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines indicate that while the B.1.1.7 variant can elude, somewhat, the immune response prompted by immunization, it’s not enough to make the vaccines any less effective in protecting people. That’s because the vaccines cause a broad immune response so that even if it’s a little weakened, it’s still powerful enough to prevent serious disease and death.

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