Matt Hancock reveals all those eligible can request vaccine
Covid vaccine programmes have hit their stride in the UK, thanks to heroic efforts from healthcare workers who have delivered thousands of jabs a minute. The first-dose total has now passed 12 million, more than 20 percent of the country’s population, while second doses have not passed one percent. While the work continues, new variants have started developing in the background, blossoming from within the UK, Brazil and South Africa.
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Most countries have approved three Covid jabs, the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca candidates.
They protect people from 90 to 95 percent of Covid cases and severe infection.
But they were developed for the virus’s base form, and researchers have suggested they may not have the same impact on the new variants.
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The South African and Brazil versions both present with higher infectivity rates, while the British variant also has a higher fatality rate.
Variants acquired a mutation named E484K which allows it to bypass protections provided by the new jabs.
Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology, University of Reading, explains they would hamper the body’s ability to respond to the virus.
He said: “In lab studies, this mutation meant that antibodies were less able to bind to the virus’s spike protein in order to stop it from unlocking human cells to gain entry.”
“Clinical trials by Novavax and Johnson & Johnson showed that their new vaccines were less effective in South Africa, compared to the UK or USA, and it is presumed that it was because of the high level of virus-carrying this E484K mutation.
“While no assessments have yet been made on the effectiveness of the vaccines currently in use in this country, it is entirely possible that their efficacy will be similarly diminished by this mutation.”
A small study of 2,000 people has since suggested the AstraZeneca vaccine isn’t as effective against the South African strain, making the company one of the first to announce a booster.
The company is working with Oxford University – which developed the first jab – to create one by autumn this year.
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Both Pfizer and Moderna announced their plans to create boosters before.
Pfizer revealed it would strive to test whether its vaccine remained effective against any new variants.
And one study they conducted did just that, showing the Pfizer/BioNTech jab continues to protect against the UK variant.
They didn’t provide a date for their booster but said they would “very quickly” be able to produce one.
Also in late January, Moderna announced it wanted to produce two boosters “out of an abundance of caution”.
The first, a booster candidate named mRNA-1273.351, would act against the South African version.
The company has already submitted it for clinical trials, with Phase I starting in the same month.
Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer, said the company wanted to be “proactive as the virus evolves”.
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