Health Secretary Matt Hancock has expressed concern over the new strain of coronavirus discovered in South Africa after intervention from vaccine leader Sir John Bell.
The UK has already seen some cases of the new SA strain amidst dealing with a new variant of our own. But, it seems that out of the two we have much more reason to worry about the South African strain as concerns have been raised that jabs may not be enough to save us.
Sir John Bell, the regius professor of medicine at Oxford has revealed that the new strain shows some significant protein changes which could make vaccines ineffective:
I would worry a lot about the South African strain. The mutations associated with the South African form are really pretty substantial changes in the structure of the protein.
However, Bell has reassured residents that the UK strain, which is 70% more infectious than regular COVID will most likely be quashed by jabs:
My gut feeling is the vaccine will be still effective against the Kent strain. I don’t know about the South African strain - there’s a big question mark about that.
Hancock went on to state that the new strain hailing from south of the equator is a ‘very significant problem’:
I’m incredibly worried about the South African variant, and that’s why we took the action that we did to restrict all flights from South Africa. This is a very, very significant problem... even more of a problem than the UK new variant.
As luck would have it, researchers have already done most of the legwork with the other vaccines and they can potentially be tweaked to target the South African strain without going through full regulatory approval. But this process could take anywhere from a month to six weeks.
Sir John also attempted to calm the masses, assuring them that these types of scenarios have already been predicted by scientists and the two new strains will not be the only ones we witness:
Everyone should stay calm. It’s going to be fine. We’re now in a game of cat and mouse. These are not the only two variants we will see. We are going to see lots of variants.