Emerging evidence suggests new coronavirus variant could pose a problem for current vaccines
Two studies have emerged in recent days which have found that new variants of coronavirus could pose a problem for current vaccines.
A variant first spotted in South Africa in October last year has now been found in more than a dozen countries.
In the most recent study, which was small, researchers took antibodies from six people who were hospitalized with COVID-19 before the new variant was discovered.
They found to varying degrees, that antibodies for all six of the survivors were unable to fully fight off the virus.
In both of the recent studies, the work was done in the lab and not in people, so more research is needed to gauge the true threat of the new variant.
“I think the evidence is building that these mutations – and I think other mutations – will emerge across the globe … that are escaping antibodies from previous infection,” said Alex Sigal, a virologist at the Africa Health Research Institute and the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology.
It’s unclear whether this means someone would be vulnerable to the new variant if they’d already had COVID-19, or what this might mean for people who’ve been vaccinated.
Sigal’s findings were very similar to those of a study released Tuesday by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa.
“When you see two groups independently arriving at the same basic answer, that good – there’s more consonance that they are correct,” said Jesse Bloom, a virologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
New variant mutations
A third study, also released Tuesday, showed that mutations in the new variant allowed them to evade some of the immunity induced by vaccination, but it was far from a complete escape.
That study looked at far fewer mutations in the variant than the South African studies examined.
None of the studies were peer-reviewed or published in medical journals.
While scientists work out whether these variants are particularly dangerous – and studies are underway in several labs worldwide – one thing is clear: Get the vaccine if you can.