Researchers in a new study found that COVID-19 vaccines are effective against a coronavirus variant that first emerged in California and has since become the dominant strain in the Golden State. The findings, published this week as a research letter in the New England Journal of Medicine, bolster evidence of the importance of receiving the vaccine in an effort to prevent severe illness, especially amid emerging variants.
The study, led by researchers with Duke University, found that the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, as well as a vaccine candidate from Novavax that has not yet been approved for emergency use in the U.S., were both effective against the variant, known as B.1.429.
For the study, the researchers tested blood serum from those who had received either the Moderna vaccine or the Novavax one. They did not test the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because the findings for the Moderna vaccine “would be comparable due to the similarities of the technology used in the two vaccines,” per a university news release accompanying the findings.
They then exposed the California variant to the blood serum of those who had received both doses of the Moderna vaccine. They found that while there was a small decline in efficacy, the vaccine remained highly protective.
Similar results were found when the researchers tested the Novovax jab.
The researchers also exposed another coronavirus variant, one that was first identified in South Africa late last year, to the blood serum, finding the vaccines had diminished efficacy against that mutation. These were results were in line with the findings of other, separate studies on this specific variant.
Still, “the good news is the California variant does not appear to be a problem for our current vaccines,” said author David Montefiori, Ph.D., professor and director of the Laboratory for AIDS Vaccine Research and Development in Duke’s Department of Surgery, in a statement.
“That’s important to know because this variant is now as prevalent in the U.S. as the U.K. variant, both of which appear to be more contagious,” he added.