Moderna and Pfizer are now testing their COVID vaccines against the new strain that has emerged in the U.K. and other countries. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today that the new strain has not been detected in the U.S.
However, it also said that just a small faction of infections in the country have been sequenced, which means the new strain could be in the U.S. "without having been detected." The CDC also said that travel between the U.K. and the U.S. and the widespread prevalence of the new strain in the U.K. increase the "likelihood of importation."
Moderna, Pfizer test vaccines against new COVID strain
According to CNN, Moderna said it believes its own vaccine will protect against the new COVID strain identified in the U.K. The Sun reported that the scientist who led the team that developed Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID vaccine is "confident" that it will protect against the new strain. Moderna will be completing further testing in the next few weeks.
Pfizer also said it is "generating data" on how well samples of blood from people who have been immunized with its vaccine "may be able to neutralize the new strain." CNN notes that COVID-19 has mutated before, and both Moderna's and Pfizer's vaccines did protect against other strains. However, some researchers who have been studying the new strain told CNN that they're concerned that its mutations could reduce the effectiveness of the vaccines that have been developed and are being rolled out now.
It's unclear just how important the latest mutation is, but some scientists are concerned that it could be more contagious than the original COVID-19 strain because among its 17 mutations are changes to the "spike" protein, which is the piece of the virus that makes it contagious, according to the New York Post.
Restrictions imposed on U.K. travelers
Many countries, including Canada, have set new restrictions on travelers from the U.K. The U.S. has not yet imposed restrictions on U.K. travelers, although CNN reports that the White House is thinking about requiring travelers from the country to have a negative COVID-19 test before they can enter the U.S.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the new strain found in the U.K. "doesn't change what we need to do" to protect ourselves against the novel coronavirus.