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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new coronavirus variant in California is more contagious than the initial strain, two studies confirm, according to the New York Times.

Yes, but: Researchers still don't know whether this variant is deadlier, or causes more severe illness.

Background: Scientists have been monitoring the California variant, known as B.1.427/B.1.429, since its discovery in December.

  • And though it's been tracked in most of the U.S. and several other countries, its spread is predominantly in California, unlike the B.1.1.7 variant from the UK, which has spread nationwide.

Driving the news: A study from researchers at University of California, San Francisco, which has not yet been peer reviewed, estimates that cases caused by the variant are now doubling every 18 days.

  • Another study showed that people who were infected with the California variant had viral loads twice as high as other patients. It's also possible the variant could lessen the effectiveness of certain antibodies, it said.

Go deeper

Feb 23, 2021 - Health

Wealthy Californians reportedly exploit COVID vaccine program

The Lincoln Park Covid-19 vaccination site on February 19 in Los Angeles. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

California residents in affluent communities are taking up COVID-19 vaccination appointments meant for underserved communities of color, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

Why it matters: Although Gov. Gavin Newsom has frequently stressed the importance of establishing equity in the state’s vaccine rollout, affluent white and Asian-American Californians are still receiving the vaccine at higher rates than Black and Latino residents in underserved areas, per the Times.

Feb 23, 2021 - Health

Pfizer and Moderna expect to double vaccine shipments by spring

UCHealth pharmacist Marissa Kim prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 20 in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Moderna and Pfizer plan to significantly boost vaccine shipments to the U.S. government by this spring, according to written testimony from company executives released Tuesday ahead of a House committee hearing on vaccines.

Where it stands: Pfizer expects to increase its weekly vaccine delivery from 4-5 million doses at the start of February to more than 13 million doses by mid-March, said John Young, Pfizer's chief business officer.