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Photo: Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was able to neutralize a potentially more contagious variant of the virus that was first discovered in Brazil, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Why it matters: The results come as experts warn that several new variants — which are already present in the U.S. — could create a new surge in coronavirus cases and prolong the pandemic.

Details: People who were fully vaccinated were given an engineered version of the virus that had a similar mutation to the Brazilian strain. Researchers found that the neutralization of the strain was "roughly equivalent" to that of the original, less contagious strain of the virus.

  • The study also confirmed that the vaccine is effective against the U.K. variant of the virus.
  • The New England Journal of Medicine had previously released other studies that found that both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were effective against that strain, per the Washington Post.
  • Researchers found that neutralization against the South African variant "was robust but lower" when compared to its effectiveness against the original strain.

Worth noting: Pfizer and BioNTech announced in late February that they will begin testing whether a third booster shot could more effectively neutralize the South African virus variant.

Go deeper

AT&T mandates COVID vaccination for most unionized workers

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

AT&T expanded its COVID-19 vaccine mandate Wednesday to employees who are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union.

Why it matters: The communications giant is one of the biggest employers in the U.S. to require frontline workers to be vaccinated against the virus. The union said it represents some 90,000 AT&T workers, per AP.

Sep 29, 2021 - Health

CDC issues urgent advisory calling on pregnant people to get COVID vaccine

Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The CDC issued "an urgent health advisory" on Wednesday urging people who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Why it matters: The CDC said it "strongly recommends" vaccination because its benefits for a pregnant person and the fetus outweigh the risks. It added that pregnant people with COVID-19 are at "increased risk" of outcomes such as preterm birth, stillbirth and admission of a newborn into the ICU.

Updated 11 mins ago - Economy & Business

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.