On Tuesday the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group said it is not yet clear whether or not the world needs a new set of vaccines to fight different variants of the novel corona virus but scientists are working on new ones so there is no reason for alarm.
Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, told BBC radio said, “There are definitely new questions about variants that we are going to be addressing. And one of those is: do we need new vaccines? I think the jury is out on that at the moment, but all developers are preparing new vaccines so if we do need them, we all have them available to be able to protect people.”
Pollard’s team developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
South Africa paused a planned rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccinations after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild infection from one variant, stoking 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 prior-to-peer analysis that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided minimal protection against mild or moderate infection from the South African variant among young people.
The so-called South African variant, known by scientists as 20I/501Y.V2 or B.1.351, is the dominant one in South Africa and is circulating in 41 countries around the world including the United States.
Other major variants include the so-called UK variant, or 20I/501Y.V1, and the Brazilian variant knows as P.1. An analysis of infections by the South African variant shows there was only a 22% lower risk of developing mild-to-moderate COVID-19 if vaccinated with the AstraZeneca shot versus those given a placebo.
Pollard said the South African government was correct to look at how they deploy the AstraZeneca vaccine because their original plan was to deploy it in young adult’s particularly healthcare workers who were not expected to get the severe disease.