Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Vaccines May Not Work Against SA Virus Variant, Warns UK Minister | News on the coronavirus pandemic

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Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warns that the virus mutation first recorded in South Africa is of “ very great concern ”.

A British minister has raised concerns that COVID-19 vaccines may not work properly against the new, highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa.

“The South African variant worries experts because the vaccine may not respond in the same way or work quite the same,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told British LBC radio. “This South African variant – that’s a very big concern for scientists.”

His comments came as the world’s leading vaccine makers rush to see if their vaccines work against new mutations in the novel coronavirus, found in South Africa and the UK.

British scientists said the variant found in the UK, which has become dominant in parts of England, still appears susceptible to vaccines. This variant has also been found in the United States and other countries.

The variant first discovered in South Africa has an additional mutation, called E484K, which scientists are on the lookout for.

According to a lab study by US drug maker Pfizer, its COVID-19 vaccine, which was made in collaboration with German company BioNTech, appears to work against a key mutation in both variants.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, indicated that the vaccine was effective in neutralizing the virus with the so-called N501Y mutation in the spike protein.

Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists, said it was “very reassuring that at least this mutation, which was one of the most worrying people, didn’t seem not be a problem ”for the vaccine.

Most of the vaccines being deployed around the world train the body to recognize the spike protein and fight it. Pfizer teamed up with researchers in the medical branch of the University of Texas at Galveston for lab tests to see if the mutation was affecting its vaccine’s ability to do so.

They used blood samples from 20 people who received the vaccine. Antibodies from those vaccinated were successful in pushing the virus back into laboratory dishes, according to the study, which was posted on an online site for researchers Thursday.

“Continuous monitoring for virus changes”

Viruses constantly undergo minor changes as they spread from person to person.

Scientists have used these slight changes to track how the coronavirus has moved around the world since it was first detected in China in December 2019.

The Pfizer study found that the vaccine appeared to work against 15 possible additional viral mutations, but E484K was not among those tested.

Dormitzer said he was next on the list.

He explained that if the virus eventually mutates enough that the vaccine needs to be adjusted, just as flu shots are adjusted in most years, this recipe change would not be difficult for Pfizer or other vaccine producers. .

The vaccine is made with a piece of the virus’s genetic code that is easy to change, although it is unclear what kind of additional testing regulators would need to make such a change.

Dormitzer said this was just the start of “continuous monitoring for viral changes to see if any of them could impact vaccine coverage.”

Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease specialist, recently said vaccines are designed to recognize multiple parts of the spike protein, making it unlikely that a single mutation could be enough to block them.


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