It is not yet clear whether the world needs new vaccines to fight different variants of the novel coronavirus, but scientists are working on new ones so there is no cause for concern, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group said Tuesday.
“There are definitely new questions about variants that we will address. And one of them is, do we need new vaccines?” Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the vaccine study at Oxford, told BBC Radio.
“I think the jury isn’t sure at the moment, but all developers are preparing new vaccines. When we need them, we’ll have them to keep people safe.”
Pollard’s team developed the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine.
South Africa paused a planned rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccinations after data showed they offer minimal protection against mild infections from one variant, fueling fears of a much longer cat-and-mouse battle with the pathogen.
Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Oxford said in a pre-peer analysis that the AstraZeneca vaccine provides minimal protection against mild or moderate infections from the South African variant in young people.
“I think there is clearly a danger of trust in the way people perceive you. But like I said, I don’t think there is any cause for concern today,” said Pollard.
“The really important question is about serious illness, and we didn’t look at that in South Africa because that wasn’t the point of this study. We asked questions specifically about young adults.”
The so-called South African variant, referred to as 20I / 501Y.V2 or B.1.351 by scientists, is the dominant one in South Africa and circulates in 41 countries around the world, including the United States.
Other main variants include the so-called UK variant or 20I / 501Y.V1 and the Brazilian variant known as P.1.
An analysis of the infections with the South African variant showed that the risk of developing mild to moderate COVID-19 with vaccination with the AstraZeneca shot was only 22% lower than with a placebo.
If vaccines against new and emerging variants don’t work as effectively as hoped, the world could face a much longer – and more expensive – battle against the virus than previously thought.
Pollard said the South African government was right to look into how they were using the AstraZeneca vaccine, as their original plan was to use it in young adults – particularly healthcare workers – who were not expected to be seriously ill.
“There is a need to review how best to use the vaccine,” said Pollard.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)