For the first time, the COVID-19 South African variant has been confirmed in the New Jersey region.

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a Connecticut man who has not been traveling out of the country was transferred to a New York City hospital with the variant.

This development comes amid concerns the current Pfizer and Moderna vaccines may not be as effective in stopping infection from the South African variant as the other more common form of COVID.

According to Dr. Henry Redel, an infectious disease expert with the Saint Peters Healthcare System, the vaccines will still provide an important immune response “and your body, even if the immune response is not perfect, produces T cells, which have the ability to adapt.”

The two vaccines being used have an efficacy rate of 95%, which means only 5% of people who were vaccinated got the disease. In the studies, the vaccines were 100% effective in preventing people from getting sick enough to need hospitalization.

Redel said the vaccines do not have to be a perfect match for the variants.

“If we do determine that, for example, the South African variant may be a little less amenable to vaccine, perhaps the boosters will be some different vaccine that will match it better," he said. “They can easily change the coding of the vaccine to match the types of strains that develop and become more prominent.”

Redel said regardless of the vaccine that is used, masks and social distancing will still be effective at reducing the spread of the virus.

“These variants are not going to now go through masks any more than they would have before the virus developed these mutations," he said.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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