Covid Beta variant: South African variant may evade vaccine efficiency warn experts

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The Beta variant of COVID-19 is currently spreading in France and could pose a threat here in the UK. Researchers found that COVID-19 cases including hospitalisations and deaths were higher during the second wave when the Beta variant was more common compared to the Alpha variant. Now researchers warn the vaccine may be less effective for this variant.

Professor John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) spoke to BBC’s Radio 4 Today and said: “The Beta variant has remained a threat throughout.

“It is probably less infectious than the Delta variant that is spreading here in the UK at the moment. Where it has an advantage is that it is able to escape the immune response to a better extent.”

He continued: “As the population here becomes more and more immune, the conditions are right then for the Beta variant to get an advantage, so I can understand the concern.

“Of the variants that are out there and are known about, that one has always been a threat to us. There is some good evidence from South Africa that it can evade the immune response generated by the AstraZeneca vaccine more efficiently.”

An earlier study found that the Beta variant could escape antibodies isolated from individuals who had previously had COVID-19.

Antibodies are important immune proteins that can bind to and neutralise foreign invaders like viruses.

They’re produced in response to a natural infection or to a vaccination.

Experts warn that because the Beta variant may evade antibodies, people who contracted the new coronavirus earlier could contract this new variant, despite their existing immunity.

It’s also possible that current vaccines may be less effective for this variant.

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THE Beta variant of Covid-19 is currently spreading in France and could poses a threat here in the UK.

Even more worrying is that evidence has suggested it may evade vaccine effects.

Its perceived danger to the UK has now led the Government to decide that travel rules for people arriving from France are to stay in place.

The Beta variant appears to spread more easily, with about a 50 percent increase in transmission compared to previous circulating variants, said the Mayo Clinic.

The health site added: “It also reduces the effectiveness of some monoclonal antibody medications and the antibodies generated by a previous COVID-19 infection or COVID-19 vaccine.

“Some research suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are slightly less effective against the variants.”

Asked about whether full lockdown easing could lead to the emergence of a new more dangerous coronavirus variant, Professor Mark Woolhouse said: “It could be but there are literally hundreds of variants around the world.

“We don’t know where the next variant of concern, one that will actually threaten public health, will come from.

“There’s absolutely no guarantee it will come from the UK.”

He added: “This is an international issue, not a UK one.”
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