Vaccines and variants (hope me)
April 10, 2021 10:12 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone collated good, up to date information on the effectiveness of different vaccines on the currently dominant variants? Can you point me to this source?

I'm having trouble finding a good source. If anyone could help me out I'd appreciate.

Might be partly because I'm upset, as the reason I'm asking for this info is that my mom was supposed to be vaccinated this morning but freaked out when offered AstraZeneca and refused to take it. Her reasons are fear based (thanks media!), but I found out that my dad doesn't want it either because of concerns around it's efficacy re vaccines. I am waiting to hear more from him about his reasoning, but am pretty gobsmacked that both parents are TURNING DOWN a vaccine at this point, esp given high (and rising) covid rates where we live. Argh.
posted by DTMFA to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: *its (Sorry had to do that)
posted by DTMFA at 10:15 AM on April 10, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The vaccine pessimism--from pro-science people--has really polluted the atmosphere. It's really frustrating.

Real world data on this does not exist. You'd need to do a big study with better surveillance on what variants are around. There've been a few post-hoc analyses but it doesn't cover all variants or all vaccines. There's not going to be a persuasive web site that collates all this. OTOH all vaccines give some protection against variants.

Here's an NPR article basically saying that.

In terms of variants, I'd think of this like a seasonal flu shot. You may need another shot in a year to cover other variants, but why not take one now that the does something against what's out there currently? And, FWIW, the more unvaccinated people the more variants we see in the next year.
posted by mark k at 11:27 AM on April 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: *sigh*

ANY vaccine is better than NO vaccine. Sure some vaccines may not be as strong on the variants, but if you have the vaccine, even if you did end up catching the variant, your severity of symptoms is readily reduced... You can probably survive at home instead of ending up in the ICU or whatever.

I blame the media for the unintentional feeding of the antivax trolls. They want to report ANYTHING, and they are reporting all the negative stuff.

Yes, there is a link between AZ vaccine and blood clots, but the instances are so rare (this could mean, which could mean, which could mean...) the risk is so minimal refusal based on the alleged link is unfathomable to me.

Here's Skeptical Doc Steven Novella explaining the actual science of the study and why worrying about it is just... nuts.
posted by kschang at 11:58 AM on April 10, 2021 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I've been following Dr. Katelyn Jetelina's discussions and analysis. Here is the most recent update of a chart that she's been updating as information becomes available, including what is known so far about the variants.
posted by rakaidan at 12:24 PM on April 10, 2021 [8 favorites]

The quick and dirty efficacy check to ease my mind is to search "israel covid rates", since they have such a high percentage of the population vaccinated.

Still looks good, so I still don't worry about the variants as much.
posted by hwyengr at 1:10 PM on April 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

Dr. John Campbell on Vaccine safety 8th April, read the description for the numbers and reference links.
posted by Lanark at 2:29 PM on April 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Perhaps you'll find this twitter thread useful which discusses (and links) current scientific evidence showing immune responses from Moderna, Pfizer, Novavax, and AZ against various variants.
posted by ch1x0r at 3:30 PM on April 10, 2021

Um, if they're turning down the vaccine, then efficacy might not be the primary reason.
posted by amtho at 4:55 PM on April 10, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks all, these are really helpful!

Efficacy against the variants is my dad's big concern, so it is helpful to have more resources to inform discussions about it, despite the limits of scientific knowledge at this point.

Update: I definitely presented the arguments that they should jump at the opportunity for any vaccine at this point, all protection is better than none, they will receive future vaccines as needed, etc... didn't get any engagement although I hope my dad is thinking that through. They have now managed to book new appointments in a nearby town where they think that one of the other vaccines is being offered. While this is precious and I'm frustrated with them, I'm still just hoping they are vaccinated soon.
posted by DTMFA at 5:16 PM on April 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

I can understand being askance at AstraZenica a bit: I continue to be pretty flabbergasted at their overall public floundering and confusion and it wouldn't give me much confidence to be offered it as my only option right now, even though I assume they're fine for most people.

I did enjoy having this thread, though, because I've been really wondering about which shot is best for variants so far. I'm feeling pretty relieved about mine. So thanks, all!
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:02 PM on April 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have no source for this, it's mostly what I know from what I have read. I'm a CS major with mathematical inclinations and interests in economics, I don't know a lot about biology, epidemiology or medicine.

Nonetheless, from what I understand these issues with the variants were considered when these vaccines were being made, and as well they should have because of there is one thing that's constant with diseases is that they mutate. I believe that's common knowledge. From what I've read Covid is by no means as unstable as the flu, so it doesn't really change as much. These variants are just that, variants. They are not new strains. With Covid there is one important key to the puzzle which is the spike protein. That little bastard is what allows it to hook into your cells and reproduce and this is what most vaccines target. Thus far, everyone and their mother has made the spike protein public enemy number 1.

If nothing else then consider this new mRNA technology. It's a breakthrough, a huge one. I don't know the specifics, but if you ask me it's a WWII level breakthrough. The idea with it is that when you get vaccinated, the vaccine "tells" your cells what they should produce in order to counter the virus. The old method{which was still used in other vaccines) was to introduce a dead virus in order to get your immune system used to whatever it needs to fight. This new method is much more faster and easier to manage. They could make some adjustments to deal with the new variants and whatever new circumstances they might bring. We are better off than we were an year ago.

In other news, keep in mind that there also tons of new vaccine candidates coming. If I remember correctly there's around 23 vaccine candidates in phase 3 testing all over(final phase testing). Some are mRNA vaccines, others use other methods. Nonetheless, many will likely have their new adaptations to deal with these issues. In a way those of use who get to wait for the vaccine (like me, I'm too young, thus not a priority) will get better options.

Finally, I'd pay little attention to what the media says. The whole variant saga is not new, it was happening last year too, it was just more profitable to make drama about the vaccines and whatever issues they might have had. The media is a money making machine and it thrives on people binging out of fear. They'll say whatever keeps more people hooked and emotionally invested. That is not to say that we're done with this pandemic, but today's challenge is not the variants, it's the logistics of vaccinating billions of people. Even after all this is done COVID will remain, H1N1(spanish flu) and the bubonic plague are still creeping around and they happened long ago.
posted by Tarsonis10 at 3:41 PM on April 11, 2021

P.S. I forgot this too:

If the virus were ever to mutate in such a way that the vaccines would be ineffective against it then this would mean a huge change to the spike protein. If something like that happened then COVID would lose its edge. At least that is what I have heard.
posted by Tarsonis10 at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2021

I recently watched this convo with researcher Shane Crotty. It took place about two weeks ago. He begins talking about AstraZenaca at about the 30-minute mark. According to him, AstraZeneca appears to be pretty ineffective against the South African variant. Not sure where you are and how prevalent this variant is there. Right now it exists in the US, but Crotty says it's not prevalent here yet. There's no data to say one way or the other how the Pfizer and Moderna do with this variant (so they might not be much better), although he seems to think they will turn out to do better than AZ.
posted by swheatie at 5:55 PM on April 11, 2021

Gizmodo has an article explaining how some media sources are basically going antivax when they got the wrong message from the research results.

TL;DR -- Pfizer version may be somewhat ineffective against UK or South African Variants, according to the Israeli report, but the vulnerability seems to be ONLY WITHIN the 2 week period after 2nd dose.
“We think that this reduced effectiveness occurs only in a short window of time (no B.1.351 cases 14+ days post 2nd dose), and that the S.A. variant does not spread efficiently. Thus, even more of a reason to get vaccinated and drive down cases to zero!” Stern added.
posted by kschang at 8:17 AM on April 14, 2021

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