The coronavirus variant first recorded in the British region of Kent is probable to sweep the world and become the most dominant global strain, as said by the head of the UK’s genetic surveillance program. The new variant is a concern because it’s mutating and so could challenge the protection given by vaccines against developing coronavirus.
Since variant’s detection in September in Kent, a county identified as the ‘garden of England’ and popular with travelers because of its nearness to London, the B.1.1.7 variant spread to more than fifty countries.
The coronavirus has killed 2.35 million people so far and turned normal life upside down for billions. Still, a few new worrying variants out of thousands have raised fears that vaccines will need to be tweaked, and people may require booster doses.
Sharon Peacock, COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium’s director, stated vaccines were so far effective against the UK’s variants. However, that mutations could potentially undermine the vaccine shots.
She also warned that vaccines are effective so far against B.1.1.7 variant and other virus strains present in the UK. However, further mutations may potentially compromise the vaccine dose effects.
The strain caused enough attention to force a new countrywide lockdown in the UK and has led to global alarm.
Experts stated it might be up to 70% more infectious and about 30% more fatal than other COVID variants.
Peacock said that the concerning the 1.1.7 variant that they have had circulating for some weeks is beginning to transform again and get new transformations, which could affect how they handle the coronavirus in terms of immunity and efficacy of vaccines. It is also concerning that the 1.1.7 is now mutating to have this new mutation that could threaten inoculation.
New ‘COVID variant of concern’ detected in England
The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group designated that new mutation first identified in Bristol, England, a “variant of concern.”
There are so far twenty-one cases of that variant, which has what is known as E484K transformation. The scientists believe the E484K mutation may help the coronavirus evade antibodies, possibly reducing available vaccines’ efficacy.
Peacock said that one has to be a realist that this distinct variation has arisen in our kind of communal garden lineage now, at least five times. And so, this is going to keep popping up.
PM Boris Johnson said Wednesday British people should expect to receive repeated inoculations against coronavirus in the future to keep pace with mutations of the coronavirus.
There are three major known virus variants that are worrying scientists; the British variant known by scientists as 20I/501Y.V1 or B.1.1.7, the South African variant, known as 20I/501Y.V2 or B.1.351, and the Brazilian variant known as P.1.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from London, said Peacock’s cautioning was further evidence that the battle against coronavirus is likely to be a long-term project.
He said it does not mean that this will be an acute public health crisis for that long, as different strains of the coronavirus have different impacts.
The UK recorded nearly 4 million cases, and the virus killed more than 115000 people.
The two vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech protect against the main UK variant of coronavirus.