Plans are being made for a new vaccine if variants become resistant (PA)
The UK government is looking at how fast a new vaccine can be rolled out to deal with Covid-19 variants.
Speaking during a Downing Street press conference this afternoon, Public Health England’s Dr Susan Hopkins said experts were analysing new mutations to inform potential new vaccines.
Although all viruses mutate constantly, scientists are concerned about the mutations discovered in the UK and South Africa because they are believed to be capable of altering key functions of the virus.
Dr Hopkins said: ‘We are ensuring that we look at all of the new variants that are emerging globally.
‘We’re understanding which of the mutations in these variants are common, and that are likely to be the ones that will come together to cause vaccine evasion.
‘We will then use our global scientific networks to try and work with WHO (World Health Organisation) and other global partners to decide what the new vaccine should look like.’
Dr Hopkins said the UK was leading such discussions with its vaccine task force, adding: ‘We are coming together with scientists to build what we think is the likely mutations that will cause changes in our immunity and our immune response to vaccines.
‘We are already looking at how fast a new vaccine could be built and rolled out in this country.’
The South African variant is being tested at the Government’s Porton Down research facility as well as in a clinical trial in South Africa to check the efficacy of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Moderna has said today its Covid vaccine is effective against mutant variants found in the UK and South Africa.
Tests have already revealed Pfizer’s Covid vaccine is likely to protect against the mutant UK strain.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government was confident that current coronavirus vaccines worked.
He said: ‘We have a high degree of confidence that this vaccine that we’re rolling out in the UK right now works against the variants, both the old variant here and the new variant.’
Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, added there was an expectation that the current vaccines being rolled out would afford some protection against the new Covid-19 variants.
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