A British minister in charge of vaccine deployment said there are now around 4,000 variants of the novel coronavirus around the world and vaccine makers must improve their shots to combat the new strains.
“All manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and others, are looking at how they can improve their vaccine to make sure that we are ready for any variant – there are about 4,000 variants around the world of COVID now,” British Minister Nadhim Zahawi said.
“Its very unlikely that the current vaccine won’t be effective on the variants especially when it comes to severe illness and hospitalization,” he added.
According to the British Medical Journal, only a very small minority of the mutated strains are likely to be important even as thousands of variants have been detected.
Alternating COVID-19 jabs
Oxford University announced on Thursday it will launch a medical trial alternating doses of COVID-19 vaccines created by different manufacturers, the first study of its kind.
The trial will show whether different COVID doses – those created by the Astrazeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech pharmaceutical companies – can be used interchangeably to allow greater flexibility in pressured vaccine delivery schedules.
The British government’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said the trial would offer “greater insight” into the use of vaccines against COVID.
“Given the inevitable challenges of immunising large numbers of the population against Covid-19 and potential global supply constraints, there are definite advantages to having data that could support a more flexible immunisation programme,” Van-Tam said.
“It is also even possible that by combining vaccines, the immune response could be enhanced giving even higher antibody levels that last longer,” he added.
The 13-month study will compare different combinations of prime and booster doses of the Astrazeneca and Pfizer vaccines at intervals of four and 12 weeks.
Nokor to get vaccines
North Korea has requested Covid-19 vaccines and is expected to receive nearly two million doses, according to the Gavi vaccine alliance, part of the WHO-backed Covax program, although the isolated country has insisted it is virus-free.
It is the first official confirmation that the North has asked for international help, with the country’s medical infrastructure is seen as woefully inadequate for dealing with any large-scale outbreak.
The Covax scheme, co-led by the Gavi alliance, will distribute 1.99 million doses to the North, according to Covax’s interim distribution report released this week.
According to the report, the North is to receive the AstraZeneca-Oxford jab produced by the Serum Institute of India.
Pyongyang closed its borders in late January last year – the first country in the world to do so – in a bid to protect itself against the coronavirus.