The South African Covid variant makes current vaccines 30% less effective, warns SAGE


The South African coronavirus variant can make vaccines 30 percent less effective, the government’s scientific advisers warn.

Analysis by SAGE indicated that the strain can cause up to a 10-fold decrease in antibody effectiveness in vaccinated or previously infected humans.

While antibodies aren’t the only part of the immune response to Covid – white blood cells help, too – they play a critical role in fighting the infection.

In a meeting on March 12, SAGE said the drop in antibody counts “translates into a potential 30 percent drop in vaccine efficacy.”

The study found that the variant could infect South African patients who had survived older strains, and data suggested that some immunized patients will still get it.

But the expert group emphasized that it is still not clear ‘what the implications are for protection against serious diseases’.

The emergence and emergence of the South African and similar Brazilian species abroad has made summer holidays this year increasingly unlikely.

Ministers and their scientific advisers do not want a massive amount of imported cases ending up in the UK that could undermine the introduction of vaccines in the country.

South African coronavirus variant could make vaccines 30 percent less effective, government scientific advisers say (file)

South African coronavirus variant could make vaccines 30 percent less effective, government scientific advisers say (file)

They are variants that have been spotted in the UK: Public Health England's latest find was a species believed to have been released in New York

They are variants that have been spotted in the UK: the latest find from Public Health England was a species believed to have been released in New York

They are variants that have been spotted in the UK: Public Health England’s latest find was a species believed to have been released in New York

The South African strain – known officially as B.1.351 – has three key mutations on its spike protein that help it ‘hide’ from the immune system, known as E484K, N501Y and K417N.

Covid uses its spike to stick to human cells, and current vaccines are designed to train people’s bodies to recognize that protein.

SAGE said the Brazilian P.1 variant was of less concern because it contains fewer mutations, but it may still be somewhat vaccine resistant.

The analysis presented to the group looked at studies in South Africa that showed that people infected with older Covid strains were as likely to contract the new variant as patients who had never had an infection.

It said this was evidence that ‘earlier infection, with the 2020 prototype SARS-CoV-2, probably did not reduce the risk of later Covid-19 disease due to the B.1.351 variant’.

India claims it has seen a ‘double mutant’ Covid variant that spreads more easily and possibly escapes vaccines.

India has claimed to have discovered a ‘double mutant’ Covid variant that spreads more easily and makes vaccines less potent.

Government-backed researchers discovered the tribe in samples taken in the western state of Maharashtra.

They suggested that the variant is a hybrid of two different Covid strains – a rare event that occurs when two viruses converge in an infected person.

Indian health officials said the variant mutations indicate a risk of “immune escape and increased infectivity.” But they added that the variant had not been detected in large enough numbers to be behind the latest wave of infections in India.

The variant to be named has two main mutations that concern experts. E484Q and L452R – both found on the spike protein, which the immune system targets to fight the coronavirus – are believed to play a role in antibody transmission and escape.

However, British scientists told MailOnline today that there was ‘no evidence’ to suggest that the virus is a ‘recombinant variant’ when two strains come together.

Dr Simon Clarke, a molecular biologist at Reading University, said it was more likely to be another variant that randomly evolved with those two mutations.

He added: ‘We shouldn’t try to make this something that it isn’t because it’s most likely the same we’ve seen in other variants, such as those in Brazil and South Africa – all of which have multiple mutations at their peak. to have. protein. I have not yet seen any evidence to suggest that it is a recombinant. ‘

Only one hybrid version of the coronavirus has been spotted so far. It was found in the US and was a mix between the Kent variety and a California strain.

Real data on the strain’s impact on current vaccines was scarce, SAGE said, with only one randomized clinical trial by AstraZeneca directly measuring its effect.

That small study, of adults under 65, showed that the vaccine was only 10 percent effective at stopping serious illness.

But this was widely criticized at the time because it only looked at a small number of young people with an extremely low chance of becoming seriously ill.

In comparison, Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine was found to be about 64 percent effective in South Africa, although it didn’t break down specific variants. And a shot made by the American firm of Novavax was 60 percent effective in the country, but again didn’t look specifically at different types of the virus.

SAGE said, “Overall, this suggests a modest decrease in vaccine efficacy against B.1.351 infection.

“From analysis of results from clinical trials and laboratory studies, a preliminary conclusion is that as neutralizing antibody titres (NAb) against variants decrease, we can expect a decrease in vaccine efficacy.”

Meanwhile, the analysis found that re-infection with the Kent variant was ‘rare’ and that ‘antibodies against previous viruses will continue to provide protection’, as will the vaccines.

The South African version is thought are at least 60 percent more contagious than the original version of Covid, but it does not appear to have an ‘evolutionary advantage’ over the Kent species, which is why experts believe that no massive outbreak has occurred in the UK.

Public Health England has so far noted 412 cases of the South African tribe in the UK, although it will likely be more widespread as officials are analyzing only a handful of positive samples.

It comes as oneAll truckers entering England undergo mandatory Covid-19 testing to combat the threat of new variants – despite fears the plan could disrupt food supplies.

Carriers, border guards and other workers are exempt from testing upon entering the UK, but Whitehall will announce a change this weekend.

Those arriving will have to take a modified test once in the UK, rather than at the border, to avoid delays that could lead to empty supermarket and retail shelves.

Despite concerns about delays, Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that the government “cannot rule out tougher measures.”

A government source told The Telegraph, “The potential impact is difficult to quantify, but there are concerns that an incoming testing regime will introduce an additional burden that could create significant points of friction.”

Those staying longer than two days must undergo a test within 48 hours of arrival, and every 72 hours thereafter, with fines comparable to the £ 2,000 fines for travelers not testing during home quarantine.

Border personnel working on the Channel and similar arrangements for those working on trains and ferries in the area will have to pass three mandatory tests per week.