“This is the first variant I’ve seen during the whole pandemic where I took a step back and said, ‘Whoa,'” he recalls.
Health officials have downplayed the possibility that the coronavirus vaccines do not work against the British strain, but Worobey and other researchers believe it is a possibility – and it is just a possibility – that this new variant does little to overcome vaccines.
“This is the first variant I’ve seen where I think there’s this burning issue,” said Worobey, head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona.
Trevor Bedford, associate professor of the Vaccine and Infectious Diseases Department at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, is also keeping a close eye on the British variant.
Large clinical trials have shown that the vaccines from Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna are approx. 95% effective against the new coronavirus. However, these experiments were carried out before the British variant started its explosive growth.
Bedford said he did not think the vaccine would be useless against the new British strain, but that it might lower its effectiveness somewhat.
“It can reduce vaccine effectiveness from 95% to something like 80% or 85%,” he said. “It would be a modest effect, not a dramatic effect.”
Health officials have said there is no reason to believe the vaccine will not work against the new variant.
“[There is] no evidence to suggest or reason to believe it would avoid our vaccines that we have right now, ”said Assistant Secretary of Health Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir Monday.
“This particular variant in the UK, I think, is very unlikely to have escaped vaccine immunity,” Moncef Slaoui, head of Operation Warp Speed, said on Sunday.
However, some researchers point out that this mutation is not like others who have preceded it.
“We should not immediately jump to the conclusion (as many have done) that it is it not a concern, “Kristian Andersen, professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research Andersen, wrote to CNN.” We simply do not know at this point – but we should know more soon. ”
Bette Korber, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has also studied the variant.
“The mutations are actually worrying, they all need to be tested,” Bette Korber, a scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, wrote to CNN when asked if the new mutation was a concern for the vaccine.
“This virus has like 17 unique mutations that have not been seen elsewhere, and it’s really unusual,” Worobey said.
It is not only the number of mutations that some researchers are concerned about, but also the way they can work together.
Dr. Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, said he does not think the new variant will cause a problem, but if it does, the vaccine could be updated.
“We should not forget that we still have the option, if necessary, to adjust the vaccine exactly to this new virus variant, if this is necessary,” Sahin said. “I do not think this is necessary. But if it were necessary, there is a technical possibility to do so.”