New COVID-19 variant may reduce vaccine efficacy

The new COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa can evade the antibodies that attack it in treatments using blood plasma from previously recovered patients, and may reduce the efficacy of the current line of vaccines, scientists said.

Researchers are racing to establish whether the vaccines currently being rolled out across the globe are effective against the so-called 501Y.V2 variant, identified by South African genomics experts late last year in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The 501Y.V2 variant is 50 per cent more infectious than previous ones, South African researchers said this week. It has already spread to at least 20 countries since being reported to the World Health Organisation in December.

It is one of several new variants discovered recently.

British scientists and politicians have expressed concern that vaccines currently being deployed or in development could be less effective against the variant.

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New COVID-19 variant may reduce vaccine efficacy

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