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Selasa, 22 Desember 2020

Will the coronavirus vaccines work against the new, fast-spreading UK strain? - ABC News

At least four drug makers are rushing to confirm the efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccines against the new fast-spreading variant of the virus detected in the UK.

The mutation known as the B.1.1.7 lineage may be up to 70 per cent more infectious and more of a concern for children.

Moderna, Germany's CureVac, and Britain's AstraZeneca believe their shots, which target the virus that causes COVID-19 — SARS-CoV-2 — will also work against the new strain that has sown chaos in the UK.

The mutation has prompted a wave of global travel bans on Britain, disrupting trade with Europe and threatening to further isolate the British Isles amid the final stage of Brexit negotiations.

The manufacturers are performing tests that should provide confirmation in a few weeks.

Ugur Sahin, chief executive of Germany's BioNTech, which partnered with American manufacturer Pfizer, said on Tuesday he expects its messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine to still work well.

"Scientifically it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine can also deal with this virus variant," Mr Sahin said on a call with reporters.

He said it would take another two weeks or so of study and data collection to get a definitive answer.

"The vaccine contains more than 1,270 amino acids, and only nine of them are changed [in the mutated virus]," Mr Sahin said.

mRNA vaccines are adaptable to mutations

A gloved hand holds up a small vial of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine
mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer's are easier to re-program when compared to traditional vaccine technology.(AP: Mike Morones)

In the event that the variant presents vaccine developers with an unexpected challenge, an advantage of mRNA vaccine technology is that scientists can quickly re-engineer genetic material in the shot to match that of the mutated protein, whereas modifying traditional vaccines would require extra steps.

mRNA vaccines carry instructions to the body to create the SARS-CoV-2 protein the vaccine is aiming to protect against.

The idea is that the body detects the genetic material and new protein as foreign, and mounts an immune response — producing antibodies that learn to remember and fight the virus if the body encounters it again.

"We could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks.

"Of course, this is not only a technical question — we have to deal with how regulators … would see that."

Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and CureVac all developed mRNA vaccines, while AstraZeneca has a more traditional vaccine that uses an adenovirus found in chimpanzees to deliver genetic material from the novel coronavirus to trigger an immune response.

Britain's chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said on Saturday vaccines appeared to be adequate in generating an immune response to the variant of the coronavirus.

The World Health Organization said on Tuesday it will convene a meeting of members to discuss strategies to counter the mutation.

ABC/Reuters

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2020-12-23 00:47:00Z
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