The coronavirus variant circulating in South Africa could be resistant to the vaccine, a leading expert has suggested but stressed that it could take just six weeks to develop a new jab if one was needed.
Sir John Bell, regius professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said his “gut feeling” was that the vaccines already on stream would be effective against the new UK strain, which was first identified in Kent.
But he added: “I don’t know about the South African strain – I think that’s a big question mark.”
South Africa was put into lockdown last week after President Cyril Ramaphosa said the new variant, 501.V2, appeared to be “more contagious” than the virus that circulated in the first wave.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, said on December 23 that two cases of the South African strain had been identified in the UK. The cases and their contacts were quarantined, and the Government placed strict restrictions on travel from South Africa.