Pfizer and BioNTech, makers of a COVID-19 vaccine, said on Thursday that their product is effective against coronavirus variants that have emerged in Britain and South Africa.
In a statement, the two companies said the “small differences” detected in tests comparing the original virus and the recent versions “are unlikely to lead to a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the vaccine.”
While the findings indicated no need for a new vaccine to tackle the new strains, Pfizer and BioNTech said they would respond if there was evidence that the variants could defeat their current vaccine.
They would continue to monitor their vaccine’s “real-world effectiveness,” including against new strains, they said.
Germany eyes travel ban
Germany is planning to ban most travellers from countries hardest hit by coronavirus variants, the interior minister said on Thursday, in a bid to stop the strains from reversing recent progress on lowering infections.
“At the moment within the government, we are coordinating towards the aim of refusing inbound travel from mutation areas,” said Horst Seehofer.
“We are concentrating these travel restrictions on mutation areas, that is at the moment Britain, Portugal, South Africa and Brazil.”
India eases restrictions
India has further eased coronavirus restrictions, bucking the trend in many other countries as the huge Asian nation’s infection and death numbers fall sharply.
Government figures on Thursday showed that, in the previous 24 hours, 123 people died from the virus in India, with 11,666 new infections.
In September, at the peak of the outbreak in India, the country of 1.3 billion people was recording almost 100,000 new cases and more than 1,000 deaths per day.
Addressing the gradual reopening, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla said: “The number of active cases in the country have been declining steadily over the past four months.”
Wuhan probe team
A team of experts from the World Health Organization left quarantine in Wuhan on Thursday to begin a heavily scrutinized probe into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, after Washington urged a “robust and clear” investigation.
The group started a two-week quarantine on arrival on January 14 in the central Chinese city where the first known cluster of virus cases emerged in late 2019.
The WHO insists the visit will be tightly tethered to the science of how the virus – which has killed more than two million people – jumped from animals to humans.
Beijing has so far frustrated international efforts to track the origins of the virus, which has killed more than 2.1 million people globally, and only recently allowed the WHO team into China after repeated delays.