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"Good reason" to think vaccines will be effective against mutated COVID-19 strains, doctor says

Doctor on holiday travel during pandemic
Doctor on holiday travel during pandemic 03:42

New strains of COVID-19 have caused alarm and concern in the United Kingdom and South Africa, with many people worried the mutations could complicate vaccine efforts that have only recently gotten underway.

At least one doctor, however, voiced optimism that the newly developed shots could also be effective against mutated strains of the virus. 

"There's good reason to believe the vaccines will be effective," Dr. Uzma Syed said on "CBS This Morning: Saturday." 

She continued, "In fact, the manufacturers are testing them because the vaccine produces immunity in many different ways."

The mutated virus strain detected in the U.K. has forced as many as 80 countries to shut their borders to the island nation. The United States will require travelers from there to show a negative COVID-19 test before boarding their flights. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci was also asked about the new strain in an interview with CBSN's Anne Marie Green Wednesday, and he also downplayed possible concerns.

"This vaccine does not drift… it does not drift the way influenza [vaccine] does," he said, expressing confidence that adjustments would be made if needed.

He added that most viral mutations, like those that normally occur with the influenza virus, "have no relevant functional impact." 

Fauci also said influenza changed at a more rapid pace than COVID-19 appears to, and the current Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are different from past inoculations and will likely withstand these mutations. 

Dr. Syed, who heads the COVID-19 task force at Good Samaritan Hospital in Long Island, New York, urged Americans to worry more about keeping up with COVID-19 health guidelines. 

"The most important thing to remember is the tools that we have to fight transmission of this virus are still effective against this variant, and those include wearing a mask, socially distancing, and really avoiding indoor gatherings with people that are outside of your household," she said.

Syed's advice comes as traveling amid the pandemic has hit a new high, with the TSA reporting more than 7 million people cleared for flights out of U.S. airports in the week before Christmas.

Syed called the increase in travel coupled with winter weather forcing more gatherings to be held indoors "alarming."

"Our hospitals are already full of patients," she said. "We want people to know with over 300,000 that lost their lives, we are doing everything that we can every day to save lives."

Syed urges those who must travel to quarantine themselves before and after their arrival. 

"Having a negative test right before your travel does not, in fact, clear you of infection," she explained. "You may be incubating, you may have been exposed during your travel. So it's really prudent to continue quarantining after you arrived at your destination for about two weeks."

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