Will COVID Vaccines Work Against Virus Variants?

Based on latest available data.
Photo/s: Jerome Ascano

Note: this article will be updated as new data emerge.

Many of countries all over the world, including Philippines, have yet to inoculate bulk of their population. As they wait, the virus proceeds in its natural course when transmitted—mutating and evolving into variants—in turn, raising new concerns on the efficacy of available vaccines. 

Here's what we know so far about different vaccines and their efficacy against the emergent COVID-19 variants, based on data from Dr. Nina Gloriani, who heads the Philippines' vaccine expert panel.


Country of origin: U.S.

Efficacy: 95% against symptomatic COVID, 89% against severe disease

Performance against variants: Antibodies of vaccinated slightly less effective against new variants but still protect people


Country of Origin: U.S.

Vaccine efficacy: 94.1% against asymptomatic COVID, 100% against severe disease

Performance against variants: Less effective against South African variants, but antibodies generated still effectively neutralize the virus and provide protection

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Country of origin: U.S. 

Vaccine efficacy: 89.3% (UK Trial Phase 3), 49.4% (both HIV positive and negative population), 61.1% (HIV negative population)

Performance against variants: 96% against UK Variant, 60% against South Africa variant (without HIV+ subjects), 49.3% South African Variant (HIV+ included)

Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)

Country of origin: U.S. 

Vaccine efficacy: 66% against symptomatic disease, 85% against severe disease, 100% against hospitalization and death

Performance against variants: 66% against Brazil variants (Latin America trials), 52% against South Africa variant 


Country of origin: U.K. 

Vaccine efficacy: 70% overall efficacy against symptomatic disease, 100% against severed disease, 67% against transmission

Performance against variants: 75-84% appears to still work well on UK variant, but efficacy in South African trial very low at 10% (2,000 subjects)


Country of origin: China

Vaccine efficacy: 50.4% (Brazil, high risk health care workers), 78% against hospitalization, 100% against severe disease; 91.25% (Turkey health care workers, general population), 65.3% (Indonesia, healthy 18-57 year olds)

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Performance against variants: No data yet

Sputnik V

Country of origin: Russia

Vaccine efficacy: 91.4% against symptomatic COVID, 100% against severe COVID

Performance against variants: No data yet

Why these numbers matter

Health experts have continuously emphasized the need to vaccinate more people as possible, as the emergence of variants threaten protection from the virus that current available vaccines provide. 

"We're racing against time here," said Gloriani, as she urged Filipinos to get vaccinated as soon as they are offered one by the Department of Health's immunization program. 

"Variants are there, it is inevitable and it cannot be controlled unless you control the transmission of the disease that you’re preventing... Will the vaccines do that? Yes potentially," said Dr. Lulu Bravo, Founder and Exec Dir. Philippine Foundation for Vaccination (PFV).

Even with these new variants, the goal, for now, remains unchanged: inoculate at least 70% of the population to achieve herd immunity in one or two year's time. 

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