New variants in Houston: What's the biggest concern?

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Video Transcript

- What are the concerns regarding the vaccine and the variants?

- The concern is that they could lead to what are called spike-gene target failures, meaning that the antibodies that you get either from infection or through vaccination will not cross-protect against some of these variants. Most of the vaccines through Operation Warp Speed all seem to do pretty well against the one from the UK, the B117. Against the South African one, there seems to be a reduction in the amount of neutralizing antibody against the South African one.

So in some cases, there'll still be enough there to protect.

- What is Moderna specifically doing? And what action did they take as far as a booster goes concerning variants?

- Well, they're talking about doing a third immunization. And I seem to remember they were talking about a third immunization even before the variant. And part of that may be due to the fact that the durability of protection may be modest. So you need to get a third immunization up there. And then if you're going to boost, well, you might as well boost against something like the South African variant.

- So is that concerning, that these other variants are now here in our community?

- It is. And it's concerning for the whole nation. And the question is, what does the landscape look like in terms of all these variants, say, over the next six months? Will all of these become dominant? Will you have this mosaic of California, New York, South Africa, UK? Or will one outcompete the other? And we just don't know.

The safest thing to do, of course, is to accelerate our timetable to vaccinate the American people. And that's what I've been pushing for pretty hard, to say, you know, the original plan was to vaccinate by the fall. I think, now we've got to look at trying to accelerate that timetable to vaccinate by early summer, late spring.

- Due to all the variants and the concern that--

- That's right, that's right.

- You know, you mentioned Johnson and Johnson. Tomorrow is a big day for them. What can we expect to see tomorrow?

- This will be the VRBPAC Committee meeting. And I think it's likely they're going to give the green light to release this vaccine under emergency use authorization. I think the unknown is whether they will make it specific for certain age populations. There's some data in there to suggest that it doesn't work quite as well for older individuals in a single dose, and will that be reflected in the recommendations.

- What are the benefits of having the Johnson and Johnson vaccine?

- The benefits are, we need more vaccine supply. We don't-- by the summer, we should have enough vaccines to vaccinate fully the American population. And that's where we have to head if we're going to interrupt transmission. And by the way, there's some good news that's coming out of Israel now from yesterday showing that the two doses of the Pfizer vaccine interrupt asymptomatic transmission by 92%.

So if the other vaccines follow suit, what it could mean is that by the summer, fall, if you're vaccinated, we're not going to need, necessarily, masks anymore, which is really good news. We don't have all that information yet. But it's looking-- I think it's looking fairly promising.