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World faces around 4,000 COVID-19 variants as Britain explores mixed vaccine shots

5 February 2021 09:21 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The world faces around 4,000 variants of the virus that causes COVID-19, prompting a race to improve vaccines, Britain said on Thursday, as researchers began to explore mixing doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots in a world first.


Thousands of variants have been documented as the virus mutates, including the so-called British, South African and Brazilian variants which appear to spread more swiftly than others.
British Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said it was very unlikely that the current vaccines would not work against the new variants.


“It’s very unlikely that the current vaccine won’t be effective on the variants whether in Kent or other variants especially when it comes to severe illness and hospitalisation,” Zahawi told Sky News. “All manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and others, are looking at how they can improve their vaccine to make sure that we are ready for any variant - there are about 4,000 variants around the world of COVID now.”


While thousands of variants have arisen as the virus mutates on replication, only a very small minority are likely to be important and to change the virus in an appreciable way, according to the British Medical Journal.


The so-called British variant, known as VUI-202012/01, has mutations including a change in the spike protein that viruses use to bind to the human ACE2 receptor - meaning that it is probably easier to catch.


“We have the largest genome sequencing industry - we have about 50% of the world’s genome sequencing industry - and we are keeping a library of all the variants so that we are ready to respond - whether in the autumn or beyond - to any challenge that the virus may present and produce the next vaccine,” Zahawi said.
REUTERS, 04TH 
FEBRUARY, 2021

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