New COVID-19 variant spreading rapidly in New York City

Two new studies found that the variant is unique, but shared a concerning mutation with the more contagious Brazilian and South African variants,
4:22 | 02/26/21

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Transcript for New COVID-19 variant spreading rapidly in New York City
Good evening. Great to have you with us on a Thursday night. We'll get to the former gymnastics coach charged with abuse and other crimes. He has died by suicide. But we are going to begin with that new covid variant spreading quickly in New York City. Researchers racing to find out whether it is more contagious, deadly, and whether the current vaccines work against it. Meantime, president Biden marking a key milestone this afternoon, 50 million shots in arms since he took office. That's half his goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days. Now weeks ahead of schedule. In New York, health officials say that new variant, there is a mutation also found in the Brazil and South Africa variants that can weaken the body's immune response. All eyes on Johnson & Johnson, that fda hearing tomorrow. Emergency use authorization could come right after. 3 million to 4 million doses potentially next week, 100 million doses by June. And tonight the numbers, 45 million Americans have now received at least one dose, more than 13% of the population. But of course not a moment too soon with concern now over these variants and the new one right here in New York. ABC's whit Johnson leading us off. Reporter: Tonight researchers are closely tracking a new covid variant, now spreading rapidly through New York City. Two new studies finding the variant is unique and shares a concerning mutation with the more contagious Brazilian and south African variants, some health experts raising questions about whether its could impact the effectiveness of vaccines or other treatmentses. How worried are you about this new variant in New York City? I'm concerned about this new variant, quite concerned. It's carrying certain very important mutations that would allow it to infect people who already have protection against the previous variant. Reporter: But researchers stress it's not clear this variant is more contagious or deadly and further study is needed. Trying to stay one step ahead, pfizer and modern are already modifying vaccines to target the south African variant. And both companies are also testing a third booster shot of the original formula to see if they offer more protection. When the vaccine becomes available, take it. The waits, the better chance the virus has. Reporter: It adds to the urgency to speed up vaccinations. Here at the javits center they each reached more than 71,000 shots. Nationwide, 66 million doses administered so far, and today president Biden marking another milestone, half his goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days. 50 million shots in just 37 days since I've become president. That's weeks ahead of schedule even with the setbacks we face during the recent winter storms. Reporter: Across the country, a scramble to get that coveted shot. In Massachusetts, 50,000 vaccine appointments snatched up in just 90 minutes. The unlucky ones sent to a digital waiting room. I now had 6,800 in the wait line within a period of two minutes. So it's just been an exercise in futility. Reporter: But more vaccine could soon be on the way. Johnson & Johnson ready to ship out 3 million to 4 million doses of it one-shot vaccine as soon as the fda grants emergency use authorization, which could come as early as tomorrow night. And another sign of progress -- in New York City today, more than 60,000 middle schoolers heading back to the classroom. Today marks an important step towards reclaiming our lives. Whit Johnson in front of the middle school in New York that just reopened, one of the schools that reopened today. Back to that Johnson & Johnson vaccine, of course the one-shot vaccine, we've been reporting on it here. And if they recommend emergency use authorization tomorrow after this key hearing, give us a reality check. How much of the new vaccine could we see and how soon? Reporter: David, those first vaccines could start shipping out as early as Monday. Up to 4 million doses in the initial rollout next week, then 20 million by the end of the March and a total of 100 million in doses expected by the end of June. David? Kwhit Johnson leading us off on the coronavirus. Now to the former U.S.

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