COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness Against UK & Nigerian Variants

Malaysians will be vaccinated with several different brands of COVID-19 vaccines, and the breakdown of vaccines we will get is as follows:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech;
  • Oxford-AstraZeneca;
  • Sinovac;
  • CanSinoBIO;
  • Russian vaccine Sputnik V.

Although there are many vaccines to cover most Malays, the new virus variants that have emerged recently, such as the UK variant COVID-19 and the Nigerian variant COVID-19, may pose problems for the effectiveness of the virus. these vaccines against them.

Doctors around the world are also concerned about the possibility of reinfection in people who have been vaccinated due to these new variants.

According to CNA, health authorities in the UK and other countries have said that the E484K mutation (the UK variant) could potentially reduce the effectiveness of vaccines.

For example, CNBC reported that the South African variant reduced the protection of Pfizer-BioNTech antibodies by two-thirds according to a February study.

New variants are detected every week

According to the BMJ, the SARS-CoV-2 virus makes about one or two mutations per month, a lower number than other viruses including the flu.

However, according to John Hopkin Medicine, new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are already being detected every week.

Most come and go, some persist but do not become more common, and some increase the infection in the population for some time and then go away.

Geographic separation is what tends to result in genetically distinct variants, like how flu viruses often change, which is why doctors recommend that you get the vaccine every year.

Although only these two variants have emerged recently, it is best to keep an eye out for the other emerging variants that are becoming more and more common, namely the Brazilian and South African variants.

The good news, however, is that while these variants tend to spread faster and are more contagious, they don’t appear to cause more serious illness or a higher death rate, according to the WHO.

What variants do these vaccines cover?

The British variant, B1.1.7

According to Pharmaceutical Technology, while the UK variant B1.1.7 is 50% more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, it has no significant effect on Pfizer. Additionally, the Oxford-AstraZeneca also reported 74% effectiveness against this variant.

Sinovac is also effective against the variant, according to Reuters, but more details on the exact effectiveness of the proven vaccine against these strains have not been given.

Regarding the Sputnik V and CanSinoBIO vaccines, their efficacy against this variant is unknown, and it is also not known whether updates will be made to these vaccines, according to a BMJ report on March 2, 2021.

The BMJ also reports that only Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer have confirmed updates to their vaccines to counter these variants, unlike Sinovac.

Vaccine% Efficiency compared to the British variantAre any updates in progress?
PfizerUnknown, but reported as effective against the variantYes
SinovacUnknown, but reported as effective against the variantUnknown
Sputnik VUnknownUnknown

The Nigerian variant, B1.525

Since this variant is relatively new, there is still little information about the effectiveness of the vaccines we receive against the variant. Additionally, it is still unclear how it spreads, according to The Guardian.

One important thing to note, however, is that this variant contains the E484K protein peak mutation, which is of great concern as this mutation has been reported to evade the immune system, according to The Star.

According to the BMJ, E484K is called an escape mutation because it helps the virus pass beyond the body’s immune defenses.

This mutation is also present in some UK variants, and so far current vaccines only work against this variant without the E484K mutation.

The BMJ also found that the new British variant plus the E484K mutation dramatically increased the amount of serum antibodies needed to prevent infection of cells.

At the very least, Dr Noor Hisham reassured Malaysians that variants with E484K mutations did not affect the ability to detect or trace someone infected with the variant, however.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to wait for the vaccines to announce any updates to tackle the Nigerian variant as well as the UK variants with the E484K mutation.

As we are a long way from achieving collective immunity, the wait to get vaccinated will come with efforts on our part as citizens to continue to distance themselves socially, wearing masks at all times, avoiding going out. when not needed and by washing your hands to prevent these lethal mutations spreading.

  • You can learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine articles we wrote here.

Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

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Jothi Venkat

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