LONDON (Reuters) – UK scientists on Monday expressed concern that the COVID-19 vaccine being fired in Britain may not defend a new form of coronovirus that has emerged in South Africa and has spread internationally.
Both Britain and South Africa have in recent weeks detected new, more infectious variants of the virus caused by COVID-19, which have increased cases. British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Monday that he was very concerned about the version now being identified in South Africa.
Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading, said both variants had some new features, while “a number are additional mutations … that are related” found in South Africa.
He added that these include more extensive changes to a major part of the virus known as the spike protein – which the virus uses to infect human cells – and “make the virus less susceptible to the immune response triggered by the vaccine Can make “.
Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology at the University of Warwick, also noted that the South African version has “many spike mutations”.
“The accumulation of more spike mutations in the South African version is a concern and may evade immune defenses,” he said.
Scientists, including Ugur Sahin, CEO of Biotech at the University of Oxford, and John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine, have said they are testing vaccines against new variants and say they can do any necessary tweet in about six weeks .
Public Health England stated that there was currently no evidence to suggest to protect the COVID-19 vaccine from mutated virus variants. The UK Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The world’s richest countries have begun vaccinating their populations to prevent the deaths of 1.8 million people and the disease that has crushed the global economy.
There are currently 60 vaccine candidates in trials, with AstraZeneca already being rolled out from Oxford, Pfizer and BioNtech, Modern, Sputnik V from Russia and Sinopharm from China.
Scientists say that both South African and UK variants are associated with a higher viral load, meaning greater concentrations of virus particles in patients’ bodies, possibly contributing to transmission.
Bell of Oxford, who advised the UK government vaccine task force, said on Sunday he felt vaccines would work on the British version, but said there was a “big question mark” as to whether they would work on the South African version.
Sahin of Biotech told Spiegel of Germany in an interview published on Friday that his vaccine, which uses messenger RNA to direct the human immune system to fight the virus, should be able to protect against the UK version .
“We are testing whether our vaccine can also neutralize this type and more will be known soon,” he said.
Reporting by Kate Holton, Kate Kelland, Gai Foulkenbridge and Alistair Smort; Editing by Mike Collett-White