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UK minister says concerned about vaccine protection against S.African COVID variant

Published: Updated:

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Friday there were concerns about how effective the COVID-19 vaccines might be against the highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus discovered in South Africa.

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“There are concerns that the South African one in particular -- about how effective the vaccine would be against it -- so we simply cannot take chances,” Shapps told Sky.

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Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in the UK and South Africa, according to a laboratory study conducted by the US drugmaker.

The not-yet peer reviewed study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.

The mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralization elicited by the vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists.