Leading scientists at Oxford have recently raised concerns stating that coronavirus vaccines might not work on the new strain detected across South Africa as the genome shared only one mutation called 501Y with the heavily altered UK's B117 strain.
However, the variant's different 'receptor binding domain' might attack the weak immune systems in patients with co-morbidity and cause severe infection, creating complications for the vaccine’s immunization mechanism to work, ITV’s Science Editor Tom Clarke said, citing Oxford scientist Sir John Bell.
South Africa’s variant has “several other potentially important mutations” that are completely different found in the UK strain and has evolved as a very dominant strain, rapidly surging cases across Eastern and Western Cape in South Africa, he warned.
In an interview with BBC, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the South African strain ‘“incredibly worrying” as he said that the mutated genome is “even more of a problem” than the UK variant, including the one that spread across Kent ahead of the Christmas.
“This is a very, very significant problem,” Hancock said in a live aired program on BBC radio. When asked about the uncertainty about the vaccine’s effectiveness against South Africa’s ‘very mutated’ strain, Oxford University's Regius Professor of Medicine, Sir John Bell, told Times Radio that the vaccines were being “upgraded” to work against South Africa Covid variant and might take up to four to six weeks.
The South Africa strain of Covid is "more worrying”, Bell said, adding that the scientists were still unsure about whether or not the current vaccines will provide 100 percent protection against the strain. It is more concerning than the Kent strain "by some margin”, he told Times Radio, adding that the South African strain 501.V2 that had spread across the UK was, in fact, "at very low levels” to what the genome has mutated into. There’s no definitive answer if Pfizer with the highest efficacy will work on the South African variant, he said, clarifying that the strain isn’t more dangerous but more complicated and transmissible, with infections more than treble in three weeks.