Latest South African variant case leads to surge testing in Essex | World news

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An area of Brentwood, Essex is the latest region to be subject to surge testing after a single case of the variant discovered in South Africa was detected, the UK government has said.

A total of 235 confirmed or probable cases of the variant, which appears to be less susceptible to vaccines, have been identified, according to figures published on 18 February.


Country US/Germany

Efficacy 95% a week after the second shot. Pfizer says it is only 52% after the first dose but the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) says this may rise to 90% after 21 days.

The UK has ordered 40m doses.

Doses Clinical trials involved two doses 21 days apart. The UK is stretching this to 12 weeks.


Country UK

Efficacy 70.4% 14 days after receiving the second dose. May have up to 90% efficacy when given as a half dose followed by a full dose. No severe disease or hospitalisations in anyone who received the vaccine. There have been concerns it is less effective against the South African variant of the coronavirus.

The UK has ordered 100m doses.

Doses Two, four to 12 weeks apart


Country US

Efficacy Phase 3 trial results suggest 94.1%.

The UK has ordered 17m doses, to be delivered in March or April

Doses Two, 28 days apart


Country US

Efficacy Phase 3 trials suggest 89.3%.

60m doses ordered by the UK, with distribution expected principally in the second half of the year

Doses Two

Janssen (part of Johnson & Johnson)

Country US

Efficacy 72% in preventing mild to moderate cases in US trials but 66% efficacy observed in international trials. 85% efficacy against severe illness, and 100% protection against hospitalisation and death.

30m doses ordered by the UK

Doses: One, making it unique among Covid vaccines with phase 3 results so far

Photograph: Stéphane Mahé/X02520

Routine and surge testing has confirmed 139 cases in England, 16 in Scotland and 12 in Wales, with a further 68 cases considered “genomically probable.”

Scientists are wary of the variant – known as B1351 or 501YV2 – as it could sabotage efforts to contain the epidemic with vaccines should it spread more widely. This latest case was found in the CM13 postcode in Brentwood.

Earlier this month, South Africa paused its rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after the results from a small, still to be peer-reviewed trial in young people suggested the vaccine prevented only 10% of mild or moderate disease caused by the variant.

Separately, a laboratory study published in a prestigious medical journal last week suggests that the variant may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by two-thirds, although it is not clear if the shot will be effective against the mutation, the companies have said.

Moderna, another Covid-19 vaccine maker, said the actual efficacy of its vaccine against the South African variant was yet to be determined. Previously, the company had stated it believed the vaccine would work against the variant.

Makers of some still-to-be-authorised vaccines have also found that the variant have taken a toll on vaccine efficacy.

The Novavax vaccine, which employs similar technology to the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot, demonstrated an efficacy of 89% in UK trials, which dipped to 60% in South Africa where 92% of infections were caused by the variant. Meanwhile, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine showed 72% efficacy in a US trial, but only 57% in South Africa. However, both still protected against severe disease, hospitalisation and death.

Public health officials have stepped up testing in parts of the UK in a bid to halt the community spread of the variant and others that are causing concern because of the mutations they carry. The mutation, E484K, (nicknamed Eeek), has been seen in the variant discovered in South African and another variant detected first in Brazil. Scientists suspect the mutation helps the virus evade the immunity conferred by past infection or vaccination.

Meanwhile, the prime minister is gearing up for a keenly anticipated statement to the House of Commons on Monday, in which he is expected to take a cautious approach to lifting restrictions but confirm schools will reopen from 8 March and allow some family outdoor gathering before Easter.

On Saturday, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that care home residents in England would be able to receive indoor visits from 8 March, including allowing the holding of hands.

As of Saturday, 17.3 million adults in the UK (about 1 in 3) had received their first dose of the vaccine, while nearly 605,000 people had received their second shot. Plans to offer the first dose to all adults over 50 has been brought forward two weeks to 15 April. On Sunday, Hancock also set a target of offering a vaccine to all adults by the end of July.

The official government death toll rose by 445 on Saturday, bringing the UK total to 120,365.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Latest South African variant case leads to surge testing in Essex | World news

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