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Scientists still working to see if COVID-19 vaccines protect against variants

Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 10:11 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Many still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine: how does it work, is it safe and how effective is it against new strains of the virus?

Health care workers and first responders across the nation have already received their first doses, some even their second, of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines require two doses.

“The second dose is when you get the boost that you really need,” said Dr. Cecil Bennett, board-certified family physician in Atlanta, Georgia.

Bennet says it is not possible to get COVID-19 from the vaccine.

“It’s not like a Polio live vaccine that we used to have from 50 years ago,” said Bennet. “This is a piece of a protein that’s created and the body creates an immune response from that.”

Bennet says scientists do not yet know how long immunity will last and whether another booster shot will be needed in the future.

“That’s something that’s going to be studied going forward especially with the first groups that got vaccinated about six months ago,” said Bennet.

This is how Bennett says the vaccine will protect you. (see video above.)

“This cup represents the antibody by the body after you’ve been vaccinated,” he said. “So it captures the virus and eliminates it from the system.”

Scientists believe the vaccine could still protect people in the same way when it comes to a more contagious strain of the virus found in the U.S. and U.K. which Bennett demonstrates with a tennis ball again, but with an orange stripe. But when it comes to the new variant of the virus found in South Africa...

“This is a major change to the virus where you have the spiked proteins that are created around the virus and when the antibody tries to capture it...can’t do it,” he said.

Scientists aren’t fully sure if the vaccine will protect against that strain.

They also aren’t sure if someone who’s vaccinated can still spread COVID-19.

“We believe that basically it would weaken the strain because of the vaccination but they aren’t 100% sure whether or not it could be spread maybe to someone who is immunocompromised,” said Bennet.

Which it’s why it’s still important to mask up.

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