“The virus continues to mutate and it is likely that our vaccines will have to adapt to continue to offer the best possible protection,” said Prof. Jonathan Van-Tam.
By Josh Plank, World Israel News
Authorities in the UK announced last week the discovery of nearly a dozen cases of the more-contagious British coronavirus variant with a new mutation that appears to make some vaccines less effective, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Scientists think the additional mutation, known as E484K, protects the virus from antibodies by changing the shape of the virus’ spike protein.
Researchers have identified the new mutation by genomic testing in both the British mutation, known as B.1.1.7, as well as an older version of the virus.
While E484K has also been found in South Africa and Brazil, the recent mutation in the UK appears to have arisen independently.
Scientists believe it may be part of the reason why antibodies triggered by an earlier coronavirus infection might not protect people from getting sick again and why some coronavirus vaccines appear to be working less effectively against the South African variant.
The British government has established a new partnership with vaccine manufacturer CureVac to rapidly develop new vaccines in response to new variants.
The UK announced that the process will be similar to the method used to update flu vaccines each year, but updated and accelerated using the new mRNA technology.
“The virus continues to mutate and it is likely that our vaccines will have to adapt to continue to offer the best possible protection,” said Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jonathan Van-Tam.
“Being able to create these new vaccines at speed will allow our scientists to keep ahead of the virus as they do every year with the influenza vaccine,” he said.
Clive Dix, interim chair of the UK’s vaccine taskforce, said, “Because these mRNA vaccines can be rapidly adapted, we will be ready to respond swiftly to new strains and update vaccines in the same way the flu vaccine is updated each year – a vital part of ending the pandemic once and for all.”
U.S. Press Secretary Jen Psaki told Americans last week, “Even after you’re vaccinated, social distancing, wearing masks are going to be essential, and we’ll need to continue communicating about that through health and medical experts.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis last month, “For us, victory is in within reach.”
“Very soon, by the end of March, through Operation Getting Back to Life every citizen of Israel will be able to be vaccinated. We will be able to embrace each other and get back to life,” he said.
What, if any, effect the newly discovered mutation of the British mutation will have on Israelis’ plans to “embrace each other and get back to life” is yet unknown.
In a sign of Israelis’ fears of the new mutations, the government extended a lockdown of Ben Gurion airport until Feb. 20.