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Vaccines and new variants of SARS-COV-2: already one vaccine is ineffective against South African variant.

2021-02-10

USA Today ran a report that the Astra-Zeneca vaccine was suspended from South Africa because preliminary studies had shown “minimal” effectiveness against the South African variant. The developers plan to adjust their vaccine to better match the genetic makeup of the newer strain.

The virus has had a tremendous opportunity to mutate because there have been so many infections throughout the world, approaching 100 million cases. On top of that, patients who are severely immunosuppressed have been treated with courses of monoclonal antibodies as well as convalescent serum. They often survive for long periods with high levels of virus circulating in their systems, providing an environment in which mutations will thrive.

Frequent changes in vaccines will be needed to suppress new variants. Of course, more virus genome sequencing will be needed to help detect mutations.

In a better development, genome sequencing is taking off in the United States. Federal support for sequencing has begun to develop. Op-eds and opinion pieces have begun to emphasize the need for added resources for sequencing as well.

(SARS-COV-2 Electron Microscopic photo courtesy NIAID

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