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SARS-CoV-2 Vaccines and the Growing Threat of Viral Variants

Educational Objective
To identify the key insights or developments described in this article
1 Credit CME

In November 2019, a bat coronavirus made its debut in the human population. Since that time, the virus has continued to adapt, resulting in a series of viral variants. The question that the world faces in early 2021 is whether these new variants will escape recognition by vaccine-induced immunity.

Protection against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is mediated in large part by an immune response directed against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike (S)-protein. The S-protein is responsible for virus-cell binding and is the target for virus-neutralizing antibodies (NAbs). Although this is not strictly proven, most vaccine researchers believe that NAbs induced by vaccination are protective against COVID-19. NAbs bind to the S-protein at a few sites, usually in or near the receptor-binding domain (RBD); in doing so, NAbs prevent the virus from attaching to the ACE2 receptor on human cells.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Paul A. Offit, MD, Division of Infectious Diseases, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 34th St & Civic Center Blvd, ARB, Room 1202C, Philadelphia, PA 19104-4399 (offit@email.chop.edu).

Published Online: January 28, 2021. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.1114

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Editor’s Note: Although preprints are rarely included as references in JAMA articles, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic some of the information in this article is based on rapidly developing and emerging science that is only available as preliminary communications on preprint servers.

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