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Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Researchers are closely watching whether a newly discovered mutation in the SARS-CoV-2 virus is cause for alarm as parts of Europe limited international travel this week.

Why it matters: Despite the variant appearing to be more transmissible, U.S. officials stressed in a call today that it's no more deadly and the chances it will make vaccines less effective are "extremely low."

  • The vaccine uses an immune response against several antigen molecules like antibodies, B cells or T cells around the protein, which in return would not likely be disrupted by these mutations, Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed, said on Monday.
  • "The chances that one set of mutations would alter all those are I think extremely low."

The state of play: Modeling shows the new strain, which scientists are calling B.1.1.7, could be about 70% more transmissible, but that has not yet been confirmed from lab reports, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Sunday.

  • Still, the new strain has sparked new lockdown measures from Johnson along with the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Hong Kong and Italy temporarily pausing flights or freights from the UK.

What they're saying: U.S. officials are in close contact with scientists in the UK, and are taking the next few weeks to isolate and cultivate the virus to better understand its transmission.

  • "Up to now, I don’t think there has been a single variant that would be resistant. This particular variant in the UK, I think, is very unlikely to have escaped the vaccine immunity," he said.

Background: The new strain was detected in September and has started to spread to other parts of Europe and South Africa, according to the European Centers for Disease and Control.

  • Researchers have constantly watched SARS-CoV-2 evolve in real time, Science reports, and were surprised when they noticed 17 mutations occur seemingly at once.

Go deeper

Florida requiring proof of residency to get coronavirus vaccine

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine from a health care worker at a drive-thru site at Tropical Park on Jan. 13 in Miami. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida's surgeon general issued new guidelines on Thursday requiring people seeking COVID-19 vaccines to provide proof of permanent or seasonal residency.

Driving the news: Of the more than 1 million people who have received the first dose of the vaccine in Florida as of Wednesday, over 39,000 reside out of state, per data from the Florida Department of Health. The number and reports of out-of-state recipients have caused concern over what many have described as "vaccine tourism."

Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategy

Biden signs executive orders on Jan. 21. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

"It's gonna get worse before it gets better": President Biden expects 100,000 Americans to die from COVID-19 during his first six weeks in office.

The big picture: Biden said he's putting America on a wartime footing against the virus, signing 10 executive orders today alone.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.