South African President Cyril Ramaphosa [Photo: Time]
Jan 7th, 2021 – Concerns have risen in South Africa as scientists say that the new variant of Covid-19 sweeping across the country could prove to be more resistant to the current vaccines being rolled out in the UK.
Prof. Shabir Madhi, who has led trials for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in South Africa said, “It’s a theoretical concern. A reasonable concern, that the South African variant might be more resistant.” He however said that a definite answer would come in a matter of weeks as extensive testing is already underway in South Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has however said that there is no sign that the variant in South Africa can resist vaccines. Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical Chief, said that those infected with the different variants had the same symptoms of the disease.
Dr. Van Kerkhove said, “We have no indication that there’s an impact on the vaccines that are being rolled out. That’s very good news. That’s the information we have so far, and studies are ongoing.”
The concerns come from the fact that the virus in South Africa has mutated far more than the variant in the UK and one of those mutations might mean that it may evade attack by antibodies that fight the coronavirus. Antibodies are small proteins made by the immune system that stay at the surface of the virus effectively disabling them.
Prof. Helen Rees, a vaccine expert at Wits University said, “Fortunately, should further modifications of the vaccine be required to address the new variants, some of the vaccine technologies under development could allow this to be done relatively rapidly.”
According to the World Health Organization from January 3rd 2021 to January 7th 2021, South Africa has recorded 1,127,759 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 30,524 deaths.
The country’s President Cyril Ramaphosa last week announced a return to restrictions designed to slow the spread of the disease, including a ban on the sales of liquor and the closure of many public beaches and banning public gatherings.