South Africa tests whether vaccines will work on new COVID-19 variant

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By Isabelle Kumar
Vaccine trials in Soweto
Vaccine trials in Soweto   -   Copyright  Jerome Delay/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

South Africa is carrying out urgent testing to see if vaccines for coronavirus will be effective against the country's variant virus.

The South African mutation is more infectious than the original COVID-19 and concerns are growing that it might not be blocked by existing jabs.

Virologist Professor Lawrence Young, from Warwick Medical School, said the results would not be known immediately.

“It takes a bit of time. You need to understand the genetics of the virus,” the Professor of Molecular Oncology said. “What we know is it has a number of changes in the key spike protein that are cause for concern as to whether or not the virus will be able to respond to the current vaccines.”

Professor Young said the situation is a cause for concern.

“I’m very concerned because we know that the UK variant is difficult enough and is responsible for fuelling the current crisis we have in the United Kingdom”, he said. “The South African variant we know is present in the United Kingdom and if our understanding of the UK variant is anything to go by, I think if once you start to detect these variants by sequencing, they’re probably everywhere anyway.”