What Do COVID-19 Variants Mean for Vaccine Efficacy?

February 4, 2021

“We know that the vaccines still have some efficacy against the South Africa strain,” says Healthcare Policy Analyst Chris Meekins – but not as much as they do against the U.S. strain.

Over the past week, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax both released promising efficacy data that could lead to additional candidates bolstering U.S. vaccine supply. Further, as of January 29, Novartis agreed to help produce Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccines beginning in the second quarter of 2021. Additional companies are likely to follow suit to fortify efforts to ramp up supply in the near future, especially after Biden’s COVID response team said the administration is considering all avenues to ramp up supply using the DPA. Ample supply will be particularly important as the White House has pushed for providers not to withhold second doses.

Although these developments bode well for vaccine supply, unknowns fester as some vaccine data appear weaker among the South African variant. We are watching as companies like Moderna already begin experimenting potential boosters to fight emerging variants.

The introduction of additional vaccine candidates and additional manufacturing support could accelerate the timeline for the U.S.’s return to normal, however the efficacy of vaccine efforts will depend on the public’s willingness to get vaccinated and continuing developments in variant resistance.


Recorded February 1, 2021