AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is expected to be effective against mutating Covid-19 variants, including those discovered in South Africa and the UK.
“So far, we think the vaccine should remain effective,” CEO Pascal Soriot told The Sunday Times.
“But we can’t be sure, so we’re going to test that,” he told the newspaper. The vaccine is currently being trialled in South Africa. In saying AstraZeneca’s vaccine will protect against strains of the coronavirus, Soriot echoed Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech. There was a “relatively high” possibility that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would work against variants, Sahin said last week. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is also being tested in South Africa.
The new virus variant discovered in South Africa seems to be more transmissible than the original virus, local scientists said last week.
In addition, two of the mutations in the new South African variant reduce virus sensitivity to some antibodies, meaning that these antibodies may not be as effective against this new variant. These mutations were not seen in new variants in the UK and Australia.
The variant discovered in the UK could be about 70% more transmissible and had already infected about 40,000 people in the UK by midweek, per Reuters.
The new strain was discovered in Japan on Friday, brought by travellers from the UK, according to Reuters. About seven people, including five who had traveled from the UK to Japan, tested positive, The Associated Press reported on Sunday.
On Monday, Japan plans a sweeping ban on foreigners entering the country, in part because of the new strains, according to The Associated Press.
The UK government signed deals for 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed in partnership with Oxford University. That vaccine is the largest single order from the government, which has signed deals for 357 million doses of various vaccines.
As of Christmas Eve, about 617,000 people in the UK had received doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, according to official statistics.
The UK government is now reviewing vaccines from AstraZeneca and Moderna.
“The NHS across the UK is working incredibly hard to scale up the vaccination programme as fast as they can to make sure everyone on the priority list can get their vaccine easily,” said Nadhim Zahawi, the minister overseeing vaccine deployment, in a statement.