New York officials downplay concern over new coronavirus variant
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Mayor Bill de Blasio’s chief medical adviser on Thursday downplayed the results of two studies suggesting that a new coronavirus variant found in New York City in November will be more resistant to vaccines now being administered.
Dr. Jay Varma said it was premature to infer from laboratory results how effective the vaccines would be on the variant, echoing concerns of other scientists who questioned why preliminary studies are given to the media ahead of academics.
“We really don’t know enough about human immunity to draw those direct conclusions,” Varma said at a briefing along with the mayor. “That’s why we do clinical trials. That’s where we collect data continuously.”
Clinical trials of the vaccines, Varma noted, including those done in other countries, such as Brazil and South Africa, have shown that they are “incredibly effective” at preventing death and severe illness.
Highly contagious variants of the virus first discovered and now prevalent in South Africa, the United Kingdom, and Brazil have been spreading widely to other countries.
In the United States, where the virus has taken more than 500,000 lives over the past 13 months, new infections and deaths have been on the decline in recent weeks.
Hospitalizations – a key indicator for public officials worried about straining local healthcare systems – were down nearly 60% from their Jan. 6 peak at 53,938 patients, according to a Reuters tally.