New variants of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus, or coronavirus, could raise questions about vaccines’ effectiveness, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday, Feb. 8.
Ghebreyesus said it was “concerning news” that vaccines developed so far may be less effective against the variant of the virus that was first detected in South Africa, the Western Journal reported.
In response to South Africa’s decision to suspend the AstraZeneca vaccine last Sunday during a press conference, Ghebreyesus said it was “a reminder that we need to do everything we can to reduce the circulation of the virus with proven public health measures.”
He said it was also increasingly clear that vaccine manufacturers would need to modify their existing samples to handle the genetic mutation identified.
Addressing Virus mutations
The WHO chief said that more doses of the vaccine would probably need to be administered as a booster against the new variants of the virus spreading globally, indicating that they could become the new predominant strains.
According to Ghebreyesus, the WHO expected to decide in the next few days whether to recommend an emergency use list for the AstraZeneca vaccine in light of the findings on the vaccine’s effectiveness in the African strain.
The WHO’s findings point to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine as an essential piece in its global vaccination efforts, given that it can be widely distributed in poor and underdeveloped countries. It is more easily adapted to any climate, unlike Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s RNA-based vaccines that require ultra-cold temperatures.
Medical epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of a pandemic advisory committee for the South African government, said a study of the AstraZeneca vaccine involving 2,026 people, mostly young people, found only 22% effectiveness.
Karim cited previous studies to point out that other vaccines would also be less effective against the new strain. However, he credited the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines and the one produced in China by Sinopharm as possibly useful in combating the South African variant, according to Courthouse News.
For Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, people should not adopt South Africa’s conclusions that AstraZeneca’s vaccine does not work, adding his conclusion that the evidence shows vaccines developed so far reduce deaths, hospitalizations, and serious illnesses.
He further added that vaccines developed by Novavax, Pfizer, and BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson appear less effective against the strain identified in South Africa. However, he said they could prevent serious illness.
Concerning results of trials of vaccines
So far, alarming irregularities have been reported as a result of vaccination campaigns.
A recent report in The Sun revealed that 143 deaths had been reported following the UK’s vaccination campaign. However, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) maintains that the vaccines provided are safe.
The agency attributes the deaths to factors such as pre-existing illnesses in patients, advanced age, and claims that there is a lack of evidence that the deaths are linked to the vaccine.
According to a Jan. 16 report by Bloomberg News, at least 23 elderly Norwegians were reported to have died after receiving a dose of the vaccine produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, bringing the total number of victims to 29.