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Coronavirus: Experts fear covid vaccines won’t work with new strain

COVID-19 :

New variant of coronavirus reportedly has higher transmissibility 28:33

. – Michael Worobey, a biologist at the University of Arizona, has seen more than 100,000 different strains of the virus that causes Covid-19. But when he saw the new UK strain he noticed something different.

“This is the first variant I saw during the entire pandemic where I pulled back and said ‘Wow’,” he recalls.
Health officials have played down the possibility that coronavirus vaccines will not work against the British strain. But Worobey and other scientists believe it’s possible, and only a possibility, that this new variant could, to a small extent, outsmart vaccines.

“This is the first variation I’ve seen where I think there’s this pressing issue,” said Worobey, head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.

Trevor Bedford, associate professor in the division of vaccines and infectious diseases at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is also following the UK variant closely.

Pfizer and Moderna test their vaccines against a new variant 0:38

The question of the vaccine and the new virus mutation

Large clinical trials have shown that the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are approximately 95% effective against the novel coronavirus. However, these tests were carried out before the British variant began its explosive growth.

Bedford said he doesn’t think the vaccine is useless against the new British strain, but that it could reduce its effectiveness somewhat.

“It could reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine from 95% to something like 80% or 85%,” he said. “It would be a modest effect, not a dramatic one.”

Health officials have said there is no reason to believe the vaccine will not work against the new variant.

«[No hay] evidence to suggest, no reason to believe, that it would bypass our vaccines that we have right now, ”Under Secretary of Health Admiral Dr Brett Giroir said Monday.

“I think it is highly unlikely that this particular variant in the UK escaped vaccine immunity,” said Moncef Slaoui, Operation Warp Speed ​​manager, on Sunday.

But some scientists point out that this mutation is not like the others that came before it.

“We should not immediately conclude (as many have done) that this is not a problem,” Kristian Andersen, professor in the department of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research Andersen, wrote to CNN. “We just don’t know at the moment, but we should find out sooner.

Does the covid-19 variant require a new vaccine? 2:24

How is the variation of the coronavirus?

Bette Korber, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, also examined the variant.

“The mutations are really worrying, they all need to be tested,” Bette Korber, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, wrote to CNN when asked if the new mutation was a concern for the vaccine.

The British variant has an unusually high number of mutations – 14 changes and 3 deletions in its genetic code that affect the building blocks of its proteins, according to the CDC.

“This virus has 17 unique mutations that haven’t been seen anywhere else, and it’s really unusual,” Worobey said.

“The build-up of 14 lineage-specific amino acid replacements prior to their detection is unprecedented, to date, in genomic data from the global covid-19 pandemic virus,” British scientists reported last week .

It’s not just the number of mutations that worries some scientists, but how they might work together.

“A lot of these mutations have been characterized in the lab and we know something about them. However, their combination (with other changes) has not been characterized, ”Bedford tweeted Tuesday.

Pfizer and Moderna are testing the vaccine to see if it works against the new variant.

Dr Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, said he doesn’t think the new variant will be a problem, but if it does, the vaccine can be updated.

“We must not forget that we still have the option, if necessary, to exactly tune the vaccine to this new variant of the virus, if necessary,” Sahin said. I don’t think it’s necessary. But if necessary, there is the technical possibility to do so.

– CNN’s Michael Nedelman and Frederik Pleitgen contributed to this report.

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