Oxford Covid vaccine is less effective against South African mutant strain, claim scientists

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Oxford Covid vaccine is less effective against South African mutant strain, claim scientists

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, early data showed last night in a blow to global inoculation ef

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The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, early data showed last night in a blow to global inoculation efforts.

A small trial of just 2,026 people found the jab had ‘limited efficacy’ in protecting against mild and moderate disease caused by the mutant strain.

The pharmaceutical giant said scientists will now start adapting the vaccine to kill the new variant, with hopes it will be ready by autumn. 

Nobody died or was hopitalised during the study by South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand and Oxford University, which has not yet been published but has been seen by the Financial Times.

An AstraZeneca spokesman said: ‘In this small phase I/II trial, early data has shown limited efficacy against mild disease primarily due to the B.1.351 South African variant.

‘However, we have not been able to properly ascertain its effect against severe disease and hospitalisation given that subjects were predominantly young healthy adults.’

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, early data showed last night in a blow to global inoculation efforts

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, early data showed last night in a blow to global inoculation efforts

Staff instruct a person on how to carry out a Covid-19 test at a mobile testing unit during a testing blitz to track the South African variant

Staff instruct a person on how to carry out a Covid-19 test at a mobile testing unit during a testing blitz to track the South African variant

The average age of the trial’s participants was 31, an age at which one is very unlikely to fall seriously ill with Covid-19. 

Coronavirus has mutated thousands of times during the course of the pandemic which is normal behaviour for a virus.

But scientists are concerned in particular about three variants which evidence suggests are highly transmissible; the ones first detected in Kent, South Africa and Brazil.  

The South African variant, which has been detected across the world including in the UK, appears to be proving the most immune to vaccines.

American pharmaceutical firms Johnson and Johnson and Novavax have both reported their shots are less effective against the strain.

Similarly, Moderna is manufacturing a booster shot to its vaccine regimen to tackle the variant, while the Pfizer-BioNTech jab was also reportedly less effective.

Britain has bought 100million doses of the home-grown Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and is currently rolling it out to millions. 

At the same time a testing blitz is underway in parts of the country after 11 cases of the variant were identified in people who had no links to travel – suggesting it may be spreading in communities.

‘Surge testing’ has been ordered in 11 authorities after the South African variant of coronavirus was detected in the UK

Worcestershire become the latest area to start surge testing after the South African coronavirus variant was detected locally.

Worcestershire County Council has set up surge testing in the WR3 postcode after cases of the variant with no links to international travel were identified.

A mobile testing unit has been set up at The White Hart pub in Fernhill Heath, near Worcester, for adults with no symptoms living within walking distance.

A drive-through testing site is planned to open in the coming days, and door-to-door testing will also be made available.

Worcestershire County Council said: ‘Working in partnership with NHS Test and Trace, every person over the age of 18, living in the WR3 postcode and some WR9 postcodes, is strongly encouraged to take a Covid-19 test this week, even if they are not showing symptoms.’

Dr Kathryn Cobain, director for public health in the county, said: ‘I urge everyone offered a test to take it up to help us to monitor the virus in our communities and to help suppress and control the spread of this variant.’

Door-to-door and mobile testing began at the start of the month as part of urgent efforts to swab 80,000 people. 

Worcestershire County Council has set up surge testing in the WR3 postcode after cases of the variant with no links to international travel were identified

Worcestershire County Council has set up surge testing in the WR3 postcode after cases of the variant with no links to international travel were identified

Testing of around 10,000 people in Maidstone, Kent, was completed on Thursday night.

In Surrey, testing in Woking was expected to finish on Friday with door-to-door deliveries in Egham and Thorpe due to begin on Saturday.

Sefton Council said efforts to identify the variant in the Norwood area of Southport in Merseyside would continue into the weekend.

Testing in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, is being rolled out for another week until February 12, the council said.

Around 10,300 people in Walsall have been tested so far and some 560 tests had been conducted in the affected areas in Birmingham, the West Midlands Combined Authority was told.

Mobile testing units and home testing kits were also deployed this week to Hanwell, west London and Mitcham, south London.

Testing will also continue into next week in Tottenham, north London.      

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