A study of a new version of the coronavirus that has emerged in the UK leads scientists to believe the vaccines will be effective against strains, a leading British virologist said on Wednesday for a World Health Organization (WHO) event broadcast globally.
Speakers were Judith Breuer, a professor of virology at University College London, who led the interview accompanied by Jeffrey Barrett, director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the British Wellcome Sanger Institute, and Frank Konings, a senior WHO laboratory expert.
“We haven’t seen anything different with this virus compared to the versions already circulating,” Breuer said. “We have no evidence that this virus behaves differently immunologically in the population.
“So we think the vaccines will work just as well. And that’s why we introduce vaccines. And we monitor them very carefully. But there’s no signal at all that this virus is behaving differently from variance to other variants.”
Breuer said scientists are not currently reporting any early signs of re-infection, which would show that the virus cannot be controlled by antibodies or immunity from previous infections.
Scientists said while the UK announced 39,237 new COVID-19 cases across the country, with a total of nearly 2.15 million and a total of 69,051 deaths, while the new strain caused alarm in other countries.
The EU has recommended that member states discourage all unimportant travel to and from the UK after a new strain of the virus was found in the country.
“Existing measures are still working”
“Mutations always sound so scary and cause a lot of panic. But, in fact, for the virus itself, it’s perfectly normal. Viruses replicate or make copies of themselves. They always change a little bit,” Konings said.
“So they make a lot of mistakes, just like a typo when you write a letter. And those mistakes are called mutations. And a virus with a mutation is called a variant.”
A WHO official explained that it is a normal and natural process that all viruses go through.
“It is important to keep in mind that, although the virus has changed, it is still leading SARS-CoV-2, and existing measures and interventions are still working and should be implemented,” Barrett said.
He also added that all basic public health and social measures that have proven to be effective should be continued.
“The things you’ve been doing over the past year, testing, isolating, caring for cases, quarantining contact contact cases, but your individual protective measures like hand hygiene, physical removal and indoor ventilation are also really important,” the British scientist said.