Could COVID-19 variants alter vaccine effectiveness? Doctor Patel weighs in

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As more data points drop, each shows that we are beating back the coronavirus pandemic here in California. New cases, hospitalizations and even deaths are down. But, the battle is not over yet.

It's a remarkable progress in such a short time, but because the pandemic was at its peak, we'd never seen it spreading as quickly as it did in the past few months.

VACCINE TRACKER: Here's how CA is doing, when you can get a coronavirus vaccine

At this point in the COVID-19 race, the two contenders are the variants and the vaccines. But as the virus evolves, will one outpace the other, defeating its effectiveness?

ABC7 is on vaccine watch as a part of Building a Better Bay Area where we provide you with the latest on the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Bay Area COVID-19 tracker

We spoke to ABC7 News special correspondent Dr. Alok Patel to weigh in on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine on the variant detected in South Africa, and whether the new variant would affect the vaccine rollout in the Bay Area.

Question:
AstraZeneca paused its vaccine rollout in South Africa because a study showed it wasn't as effective against a variant. Is that something that might happen here?

Dr. Patel:
"It's possible that the variant, the South African variant, that's the B1.35, I believe that's the lineage, could become more widespread in the United States and be less effective. A vaccine would be less effective against it. As of right now I believe there are about six cases in the U.S. That could absolutely spread. Now the early data from South Africa - as you mentioned - that's about 2,000 people. They found the AstraZenica vaccine wasn't really preventing against that South African variant. The other vaccines were preventing against it but to a lesser degree. They were preventing the severe cases in hospitalizations. But, again If we let that variant spread it could push a little bit backwards as we try to race to get people vaccinated."

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