AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine immunity is vulnerable to the South African variant, a British health expert claims.
AstraZeneca vaccine is vulnerable against South African variant
Professor Neil Ferguson called for stricter border controls in Europe today, citing worries that the deadly South African coronavirus could jeopardize the UK's vaccine roll-out. If the strain had yet to take hold in the UK, the SAGE adviser - dubbed 'Professor Lockdown' after his grim modeling of the first wave spooked ministers into the spring shutdown - cautioned that it was responsible for up to 20% of infections in some European countries.
He went on to say that AstraZeneca's vaccine immunity is 'especially vulnerable' to the mutant virus, increasing the possibility of an outbreak. South Africa has also stopped using it, expressing fears that the shot is ineffective, Daily Mail reported.
Despite this, experts believe the COVID-19 vaccine is effective enough to prevent the vast majority of patients from being seriously ill from the B.1.351 virus. The strain has also been found in 469 cases in the United Kingdom, triggering surge tests in hundreds of postcodes in a desperate effort to eliminate the virus.
Boris Johnson is expected to unveil a 'traffic light' scheme today to encourage international vacations, with countries ranked red, amber, or green. According to government sources, each country would be classified depending on criteria such as the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated, the incidence of infection, any new variants, and access to accurate data and genomic sequencing.
Ministers warn, however, that it is already too early to predict which countries sun-seekers will be allowed to visit, given the blanket travel ban in force until at least May 17. More than 31 million Britons, or more than half of the adult population, have now received an initial injection of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine. However, the EU's unimpressive inoculation campaign has left countries on the continent fighting over limited dose stocks.
AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine raises questions for young people
Besides, the development of blood clots in patients who received the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has raised new concerns about whether young people can be given the vaccine, one of the UK's leading scientists said. Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London, who is a member of the government's New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), said: "In terms of the data at the moment, there is increasing evidence that there is a rare risk associated with these unusual blood clots with vaccines, especially with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, although it could be associated at a lower level with other vaccines."
Professor Ferguson received the AstraZeneca vaccine, as per INews. He told the BBC that the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) is "considering this matter very urgently," but that "no vaccine, no drug is risk-free, it is all about a balancing factor against risk."
The US stopped AstraZeneca from using the Baltimore plant
Meanwhile, a senior health official confirmed that the US has put Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in charge of a plant that destroyed 15 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine and has barred British AstraZeneca from using the plant. J&J said it was taking over the Emergent BioSolutions facility in Baltimore and that it will supply 100 million doses to the government by the end of May.
Emergent said in a separate statement issued late Sunday that it plans to work with the US government and AstraZeneca to reduce the production of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine at its Baltimore facility. The Department of Health and Human Services has also expanded Emergent's order by $23 million in aims to increase distribution of J&J vaccine doses, Emergent continued.
The $23 million will be used to buy biologics processing equipment specific to Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine to increase production of the bulk drug product into the third suite of Emergent's Baltimore Bayview plant, said the company. The transfer was facilitated by the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the health official, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the situation. AstraZeneca, whose vaccine is yet to be approved in the United States, has said it will coordinate with President Joe Biden's administration to locate a new production site, Business World via MSN reported.