South Africa Covid variant: Fears vaccine WON’T work for strain ‘more prevalent in young’
Coronavirus variant: Expert outlines details of new strain
The new South African variant has sent shockwaves throughout the world with travel being banned by many countries. There are fears this new variant is more prevalent and dangerous amongst the young with a vaccine possibly not being affective.
South Africa is struggling to contain a second wave of COVID-19.
The new strain appears to be a more infectious variant of the disease, similar to that in the UK.
The country’s 56 million people have been warned about this new variant by scientists and officials which carries a heavier viral load and appears to be more prevalent among the young.
Professor Salim Abdool said: “It is still very early but at this stage, the preliminary data suggests the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave.
The country is in danger of seeing “many more cases” in the new wave than experienced earlier in 2020 Abdool Karim said.
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Dr Richard Lessells, a leading infectious disease expert in South Africa, said it was still unclear how effective existing vaccines would be against the variant.
The other major concern was the possibility of reinfection of people who had already caught Covid-19.
Dr Lessells said: “There are a few more concerns with our variant [than that in the UK] for the vaccine.
“But we are now doing the careful, methodical work in the lab to answer all the questions we have, and that takes time.”
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South African Health minister Zweli Mkhize said the new strain appeared to spread faster, but that it was too early to tell its severity and whether current vaccines would work against it.
“The evidence that has been collated, therefore, strongly suggests that the current second wave we are experiencing is being driven by this new variant,” Mkhize added.
The mutation means the country may see “many more cases” in the new wave than it experienced in the first surge of the disease.
Up to 90 percent of cases being diagnosed in South Africa are of the new type, it is believed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday it was in touch with the South African researchers who identified the new variant.
“We are working with them with our SARS-CoV-2 Virus evolution working group,” said WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, using the full name for the virus.
“They are growing the virus in the country and they’re working with researchers to determine any changes in the behaviour of the virus itself in terms of transmission.”
Researchers say the South African variant emerged in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape province, where healthcare services are among the weakest in the country.
South Africa has more than 8,500 people being treated in hospital with Covid-19, surpassing the previous high of 8,300 recorded in August.
The Western Cape province has been seeing public hospitals filling up fast.
The province’s current seven-day average for new infections is 2,950 which is substantially more than the most intense period of the first wave of 1,623.
The shocking statistics sits at more than one in three tests carried out in the province testing positive.
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