Experts say Covid vaccines will still be effective against the new strain

News of a new strain of coronavirus has caused concern in recent days, but experts say it is unlikely to be detrimental to the success of Covid vaccines.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

In a statement about the new strain of Covid-19, Public Health England (PHE) said, “There is currently no evidence to suggest that the Pfizer vaccine would not protect against the new strain.

“Further laboratory work is currently being undertaken as a priority to understand this.”

Germany’s Health Minister, Jens Saphn, said that “according to everything we know so far,” the new strain “has no impact on the vaccines,” and that the vaccines will remain just as effective.

The French government has also echoed this sentiment, explaining in a statement, “This genetic variant does not seem to entail, at this stage of knowledge, a heightened seriousness or a resistance to the vaccine.”

‘Effective in producing antibodies’

Vin Gupta, an affiliate assistant professor from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said he is confident that the current vaccines being produced will continue to protect against different strains of Covid-19.

He said, “There is a strong belief here that the vaccine as it exists today will have effectiveness in warding off infection from this new strain in England, in addition to the old strain we’ve been contending with for months now.”

Gupta explained that this is because, at the genetic level, the new strain is likely to be “very similar” to prior strains of the virus.

“The effectiveness of these vaccines in producing antibodies that can really attack and kill Covid-19 is extraordinary,” he added.

“I don’t expect these minor changes at the genetic level to affect the vaccines’ performance in the near term.”

How to protect against the new strain

PHE said, “The way to control this virus is the same, whatever the variant.

“It will not spread if we avoid close contact with others. Wash your hands, wear a mask, keep your distance from others, and reduce your social contacts.”

Tougher restrictions around the UK

Following the revelation of the new strain of the virus, the majority of locations across the UK have been dealt tighter restrictions in the run up to Christmas.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “We know enough [about the new strain] already to be sure that we must act now.”

Many areas across southeast England and London have been placed under new Tier 4 restrictions as of Sunday (20 Dec), which ushered in the closure of non-essential retail, gyms and personal care services.

Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, also announced that, from Boxing Day, all of Scotland will have Tier 4 restrictions implemented, with only the exceptions of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, as well as “the other island communities where restrictions have been reduced in recent weeks, who will be placed in Level 3.”

Ms Sturgeon said, “Last week, it was confirmed that a new variant of the virus had been identified in the UK, and I advised Parliament that a small number of cases of it had already been identified in Scotland.

“While further analysis is required to establish this one way or another, we already have a concern that this strain may be driving what appears to be faster transmission in some hospitals and care homes.

“That’s why we have decided to act and to act firmly.”