Drugmaker AstraZeneca adapting COVID-9 vaccine to fight the new variants of the virus

In the face of new variants of the virus, drugmaker AstraZeneca is planning to adapt its Covid-19 vaccine. Well, the process is turning more urgent as soon as the small-scale study founded that it was less effective by protecting against more virulent strain discovered in South Africa.

The country exclaimed that it would suspend the utilization of the shot in the vaccination program after a study that was published on Sunday and didn’t yet peer-reviewed. It is found that the vaccine offered “minimal protection” against the mild to moderate disease caused due to mutation found in South Africa.

All researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and others in South Africa, and the University of Oxford noted that the study was small that involves around 2,000 volunteers who had an average age of 31. Additionally, Oxford University also added, “protection against moderate-severe disease, hospitalization or death could not be assessed in this study as the target population were at such low risk.”

Now, the vaccine makers had already started developing second-generation vaccines to fight against the new variants of the virus. Experts mentioned that it shouldn’t be tricky to tweak existing vaccines in a matter of six weeks to cover mutations. On London’s FTSE 100 index Monday, shares of AstraZeneca were trading 0.6% higher.

Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford, which developed the vaccine with AstraZeneca, commented on Sunday that “efforts are underway to develop a new generation of vaccines that will allow protection to be redirected to emerging variants as booster jabs, if it turns out that it is necessary to do so.”

“We are working with AstraZeneca to optimise the pipeline required for a strain change should one become necessary. This is the same issue that is faced by all of the vaccine developers, and we will continue to monitor the emergence of new variants that arise in readiness for a future strain change.”

However, the variant, known formally as the B.1.351 mutation which was first detected in South Africa in October and has turned dominant in the country.

Several cases have been detected, sending health authorities scrambling to stop the spread of the mutation which is proven to be more infectious. Also, they have already been concerned about the variants which can be more resistant to Covid vaccines that developed over the last year.

Moreover, it suspended the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine, the South African government will be offering vaccines produced by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer instead.

In late January, Johnson & Johnson reported that this single-dose shot was 57% effective which is one of its critics in South Africa where almost 95% of Covid infections were from the B.1.351 lineage. In comparison, the vaccine was founded to be 72% effective in the U.S. trial.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have now reported early indications that their vaccination offer protection against new variants founded in South Africa and the U.K.

Oxford released details of a separate study which showed its vaccine that was effective against a variant that was discovered in Southeast England and one which has now turned the dominant strain in the U.K.

Andrew Pollard, professor of pediatric infection and immunity and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said data from the trials of its vaccine in Britain “indicate that the vaccine not only protects against the original pandemic virus but also protects against the novel variant, B.1.1.7, which caused the surge in disease from the end of 2020 across the UK.”

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