It was around a few weeks back that a mutant coronavirus variant was detected in the United Kingdom. A few days later, another coronavirus variant was discovered in South Africa. And now, a leading scientist has warned that available coronavirus vaccines could be ineffective against the highly infectious strain detected in South Africa.
A dire warning from Oxford expert
Sir John Bell, a professor of medicine at Oxford University believes that the South African variant of coronavirus has undergone substantial changes in the structure of the protein, and as a result, vaccines that are available now may not be effective against this strain.
"The mutations associated with the South African form are really pretty substantial changes in the structure of the protein. My gut feeling is the vaccine will be still effective against the Kent strain. I don't know about the South African strain – there's a big question mark about that," Bell told Times Radio.
According to Bell, vaccines might work against the UK mutant variant which is currently causing a surge in cases all across the country. However, the South African strain, which is already detected in two locations in the UK is thought to have mutated farther than the Kent variant, which causes more concern.
Bell also made it clear that vaccines available now can be tweaked in a matter of weeks to act against the South African super-strain.
The promising vaccination drive
The comments from Bell come at a time when the United Kingdom has initiated its biggest vaccination drive ever in history. Last week, the country had approved coronavirus vaccines developed by Oxford University and Astra Zeneca.
Frontline healthcare workers, along with elderly and vulnerable people in the UK will be the first to receive the COVID vaccine shot. The country aims to vaccinate at least 5,30,000 people by the end of this week, and the shots will be made available at 540 GP vaccination sites, and 101 hospitals.