Scientists in South Africa are urgently testing to see if the vaccines for COVID-19 will be effective against the country’s variant virus.
The genomic studies come as Britain’s health minister, Matt Hancock, and other experts in the UK have said they worry that vaccines may not be effective against the South African variant.
“This is the most pressing question facing us right now,” said Dr. Richard Lessells, an infectious diseases expert who is working on the country’s genomic studies of the variant.
“We are urgently doing experiments in the laboratory to test the variant,” against the blood of people with antibodies and against the blood of people who have received vaccines, Lessells says.
The South African variant, 501.V2, is more infectious than the original COVID-19 virus and has rapidly become dominant in the country’s coastal areas. It is expected that the variant will quickly become dominant inland in Johannesburg, the country’s largest city, and the surrounding Gauteng province, he says.