1st case of South African COVID-19 variant reported in Florida by CDC

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (orange) — also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIH)

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday showed that there is now one case of the B.1.351 variant of COVID-19 in Florida.

The B.1.351 variant was first identified in South Africa. It first appeared in the United States in January. Like the other variants, it spreads the coronavirus more rapidly, which can lead to more COVID-19 cases.

A handful of other states have cases of the South African variant as well, including Idaho, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Washington D.C., California, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina.

The CDC did not specify where in Florida the variant was detected but the Florida Department of Health confirmed to FOX 35 that it was found in Hillsborough County.

RELATED: Pfizer says lab test indicates diminished antibody response by its COVID-19 vaccine to South Africa variant

A recent laboratory study from Pfizer Inc/BioNTech suggests that the company’s current COVID-19 vaccine may generate a significantly less robust antibody response against the South Africa variant of the coronavirus. 

According to the in vitro study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), lab results "indicated a reduction in neutralization," of the virus.

"This finding is consistent with recent reports of the neutralization of variant SARS-CoV-2," Pfizer wrote in a news release published Wednesday. 

However, researchers from Pfizer and BioNTech said it remains unclear what effect the diminished immune response to the South Africa variant has on the vaccine’s overall protection from the virus. 

MORE NEWS: Monday marks 1 year since COVID-19 was first detected in Florida

"It is unclear what effect a reduction in neutralization by approximately two-thirds would have on BNT162b2-elicited protection from Covid-19 caused by the B.1.351 lineage of SARS-CoV-2," researchers wrote.

Despite the results of the in vitro lab test, the company said that there is still no clinical evidence from human trials that the South African mutation reduces the overall protection of the vaccine. 

The company said it is currently making investments and engaging in conversations with regulators to prepare for the possibility that a COVID-19 strain may significantly reduce the effectiveness of its outgoing vaccines.


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