The year 2021 is expected to be the year when humanity strikes back against COVID-19 and wins the war against the pandemic through large-scale vaccination through vaccination campaigns. In fact, vaccinations have already started in several parts of the world, and yet uncertainty hangs over their effectiveness, especially due to the emergence of two new variants of coronavirus considered to be more contagious than their predecessors.
In December 2020, a new variant of the COVID-19-causing SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, called B.1.1.7, emerged in the UK – a variant that was not particularly deadly, but simply more infectious and easily transmitted . .
Around the same time, another similar variant named 501.V2 was discovered in South Africa. This variant, which has spread like wildfire in coastal towns in South Africa, is believed to cause a more severe form of COVID-19 in young people and those who are otherwise healthy. This particular mutation also appears to be able to allow the virus to bind and enter human cells better than previous variants, effectively making the coronavirus more transmissible.
As the two variants continue to spread rapidly, Matt Hancock, the UK’s health secretary, admitted on Monday that he was particularly concerned about the South African variant as it could pose a “very, very problematic. important”.
Professor John Bell, a senior Oxford immunologist, who helped create the prestigious university’s vaccine, backed the politician’s claim by saying that 501.V2 poses a “big question mark” that Current vaccines would work successfully against the variant, reports CBS. While vaccines won’t become completely useless, it may take some tweaking to provide as much protection against this variant as against others already widely released elsewhere, he added.
Professor Shabir Madhi, principal investigator of the Oxford vaccine trials in South Africa, also called for strong caution against 501.V2, calling it “the virus’s most worrying mutation to date.”
The brightest side of history
Also, while some remain anxious about the new variants, other scientists are confident in the ability of vaccines to wipe out all current forms of the virus – at least for now. All vaccine producers have so far argued that their vaccines will offer protection against new mutations, and Moderna’s CEO reinforced that claim at an investor conference on Tuesday, January 5, insisting that the vaccine is expected to provide protection against the new variants.
Professor Krishnaswamy Vijay Raghavan, the Indian government’s chief scientific adviser, echoed this belief at a press conference on Tuesday, saying: “People are wondering whether or not the current vaccines would work against these variants. But changes in the variants are not enough to make the vaccine ineffective, as it stimulates our immune system to produce a wide range of protective antibodies.
“There is no evidence to suggest that current vaccines will fail to protect against the variants of COVID-19 reported in the UK and South Africa.”
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