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COVID-19 cases are dropping, but new variants are popping up

Posted at 3:46 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 13:25:48-05

COVID-19 cases are now plateauing across most of the United States, but with new variants of the virus out there, vaccine makers are scrambling to make sure those who get the shots remain protected.

"The sobering news is that we cannot bring our guard up and lose the intensity of being able to use the public health measures to prevent the further spread," said Dr. Anthony Fauci. "If the variant that has the greater degree of transmissibility becomes dominant, we're going to be faced with another challenge of a virus that has a more efficient capability of spreading."

Moderna now says its COVID-19 vaccine created antibodies that neutralized the coronavirus variants first found in the United Kingdom and now circulating in the United States. Another variant has been identified in South Africa, but that has not yet been detected in the U.S.

However, there are concerns that the vaccine may have a somewhat decreased efficacy against the strain. Because of that, Moderna is working on a booster aimed at fighting it.

As for the drop in current COVID-19 cases, experts say it does not appear to be related to the vaccine.

"I don't think the dynamics of what we're seeing now with the plateauing is significantly influenced yet -- it will be soon -- but yet by the vaccine. I just think it's the natural course of plateauing," said Dr. Fauci.

Johnson & Johnson could share its phase three coronavirus vaccine data as early as this week. One of the vaccine's developers says it is being tested in South Africa, the United States and Brazil. Results might provide insight into how well it works against emerging new variants.