“For the time being, we assume that the vaccine will be effective,” said Tulio de Oliveira, professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. “It could potentially affect the effectiveness of the vaccine, but it needs to be adequately tested.
DURBAN South Africa (CNN) – According to the scientist who discovered the variation, a variant of the new coronavirus found in South Africa is spreading rapidly, and researchers do not know if it represents a challenge for the vaccine.
“For the time being, we assume that the vaccine will be effective,” said Tulio de Oliveira, professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa. “It could potentially affect the effectiveness of the vaccine, but it needs to be tested properly.
On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s Today Show that a different variant of the virus, first identified in the UK, “does not appear to evade the protection provided by the vaccines that are currently in use”.
De Oliveira said that the South African variant does not cause more serious disease but is spreading rapidly. “The more we study this variant, the more we worry,” said de Oliveira, a virologist and affiliate professor of global health at the University of Washington. “Our main concern is just the speed of transmission and how this variant has dominated so quickly.
He said that of the samples taken from about 400 people with covid-19 who were treated at more than 100 different clinics in South Africa since mid-November, 350 had this new variant. That’s 90% of the samples.
What is known about the South African variant
The South African variant has been found in seven other countries: United Kingdom, Switzerland, Finland, Japan, Australia, Zambia, and France. The variant has 22 significant changes from previous coronavirus strains, an unusually high number of mutations.
The UK strain has only 17 mutations. Several of the mutations are related to the peak proteins found in the upper part of the virus, which is the objective of the vaccines’ antibodies.
“What worries us the most is that three of these mutations are in the receptor-binding domain, and that is the most important region of the virus and the main objective of the antibodies generated by the immune system and the vaccines,” Oliveira said.
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