South Africa testing vaccines on variant, hopes for results within 2 weeks

By Alexander Winning JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African scientists are testing whether vaccines will be less effective against a COVID-19 variant first detected locally and hope for initial results within two weeks, a professor at the national communicable disease institute said. The variant, known as 501Y.V2, was identified by South African genomics experts late last year and is thought to be more contagious than older variants.

Reuters January 09, 2021 00:11:01 IST
South Africa testing vaccines on variant, hopes for results within 2 weeks

South Africa testing vaccines on variant hopes for results within 2 weeks

By Alexander Winning

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African scientists are testing whether vaccines will be less effective against a COVID-19 variant first detected locally and hope for initial results within two weeks, a professor at the national communicable disease institute said.

The variant, known as 501Y.V2, was identified by South African genomics experts late last year and is thought to be more contagious than older variants.

Professor Penny Moore told Reuters the National Institute of Communicable Diseases had received samples from several local vaccine trials, including Oxford University and AstraZeneca's shot, and would try to find out whether antibody responses are reduced against 501Y.V2.

"The assays are now robustly set up and so we can start the vaccine studies, which are really very time-sensitive so we hope to have some preliminary results for at least two of the trials within the next two weeks," she said on Friday.

Moore said the NICD would run tests on all the vaccines being trial led in South Africa, including doses being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.

She said concerns expressed by British scientists and politicians this week that vaccines may not be as effective against the 501Y.V2 variant were not unfounded because of worrying mutations in the spike protein the virus uses to infect human cells.

"There is enough evidence to justify a concerted effort to understand whether there will be reduced protection from vaccines," Moore added.

The variant has driven a resurgence in infections in South Africa, taking total cases to more than 1.17 million - the most in Africa - and sending daily new cases to a peak of over 21,000 this week.

South Africa's health minister said on Thursday that hospitals were struggling to manage the influx of patients, as he laid out plans to vaccinate two-thirds of the population to achieve herd immunity.

(Reporting by Alexander Winning; Editing by Joe Bavier, William Maclean)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.