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VACCINES VS. VARIANTS: Are the current shots effective?

Pfizer Vaccine
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Virus Outbreak Variant
Posted at 8:59 PM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 02:48:26-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Multiple COVID-19 variants can be found in states across the country, including the South African variant in Nevada.

So how do you know if the shot you’ve already received is effective?

An infectious disease expert in Las Vegas says variants shouldn't stop the vaccines from being effective, but that hasn’t stopped the Food and Drug Administration from giving vaccine makers some guidance on making some changes.

New details released by the FDA recommend that antibody products are developed with the expectation that they will be combined with others against variants as they form.

“Everything about it stays the same, just the information in the mRNA is different,” said Dr. Brian Labus, an infectious disease epidemiologist.

Dr. Labus says the green light from the FDA will not be a complete change in the makeup of the vaccines.

Pfizer says the South African COVID-19 strain could reduce vaccine protection.

RELATED: Nevada health lab reports 1st South African COVID-19 variant confirmed case

That strain was found in Reno last week, and across the nation variants from the United Kingdom and Brazil have been found.

Despite the virus’ changes since the pandemic began, Dr. Labus says the COVID-19 shot process is similar to what happens with the flu shot every year.

“We have to change that vaccine to match what’s circulating, and we don’t have to go through a complete FDA approval process to do that,” says Dr. Labus.

Another bonus, COVID-19 vaccine modifications won’t require that lengthy of an FDA approval process due to the variants.

RELATED: Delayed vaccine shipments arrive; Nevadans 65 and older are now eligible

Dr. Labus says if you’ve had your first shot already you are good to go.

“There may be a slight change in the immune response, but it’s still sufficient to protect you,” says Dr. Labus.

13 Action News reached out to various vaccination locations across Southern Nevada for their reaction to the emergence of COVID-19 variants.

Roseman University responded in part:

“The emergence of variants of the COVID-19 virus is a concern in our Southern Nevada community and communities across the country. The key to preventing new variants is to continue to vaccinate as many people as possible. Roseman University has vaccinated thousands of southern Nevadans through vaccination PODs that have been held each week at our Summerlin and Henderson campuses and through Community Strike Teams working with the Southern Nevada Health District.

You can learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines that are currently available on the CDC's website here.