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We, the future consumers of the COVID-19 vaccines, have suffered a pandemic that has disrupted our lives badly.
People are dying, many are sick in hospital, the health system of major Western countries has been on the brink of collapsing, business have disappeared, people have lost their jobs, children can’t attend school and life is pretty much on hold.
We were told the three leading companies in charge of the roll out of vaccines; AstraZeneca , Pfizer/ BioNTech and Moderna , would help fix the dire situation with a vaccine that would address the coronavirus pandemic.
The world did welcome the news and was looking forward to the first vaccine roll-out. In the United States, Pfizer was the first of the three to file for FDA emergency use authorization, followed by Moderna.
So when the first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was first given to a 90-year-old grandmother in the UK, and vaccination began, we were eagerly waiting for better news, news of infections rates going down and the pandemic disappearing little by little.
And then, new variants of the coronavirus were reported in at least 31 countries. We know that viruses do mutate and the original Covid-19 strain has now mutated as it has come into contact with more and more people.
The new strain known as B.1.1.7, is 70 percent more transmissible than the previously dominant strain and it was first reported in the United Kingdom in mid- December 2020.
Experts believe that this variant either emerged in a patient in the UK or was imported from a country without the ability to monitor coronavirus mutations.
In the U.K this caused havoc for a while as when the news of the new variant were reported, the Brexit negotiations were still ongoing and France for example, closed its border to arrivals from the UK amid concern over the new highly-transmissible virus variant.
The new variant also lead to travel restrictions and further lockdowns everywhere.Every major European country is pretty much under strict lockdown rules like back in March 2020.
For now, the three main manufacturers ( Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca) have reported that they believe their vaccines would work on the new virus variant and that they would test it.
However, knowing that testing is the main pillar of science, we are still waiting for confirmation that the current vaccines that were tested in the original first strain are just as effective on new variants.
The pharmaceutical companies rolling out the vaccines to combat the pandemic that first broke out in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and that eventually spread all over the world, all had time for clinical trials on the first COVID-19 strain.
They used highly advanced genetic processes to identify the virus type . And once they quickly identified it, they created a vaccine for that specific virus by following the science and testing in labs and in humans.
These vaccines have now been made available because they have been tested, approved and according to health authorities such us FDA, they are effective.
However, the consumers are left wondering how efficient are the vaccines in combating new strains and what will happen with new strains coming up.
The Covid-19 vaccines were manufactured for the old strain,so we can only hope that the vaccine’s players are able to catch up with mutations quickly.
Some argue yes, the three leading vaccines do develop an immune response against the existing spike.
Vaccines train the immune system to attack a few different parts of the virus, so even though part of the spike has mutated, the vaccines should still be effective.
However, this is still hypothetical and it needs to be proved as science should be followed.
The new variants, share a genetic mutation of the “spike protein”, which the virus uses to penetrate the cells within the body causing infection.
This is the most worrying factor of what is happening with the virus.This variant is just the latest to show the COVID-19 virus is continuing to adapt as it infects more people.
Despite reassurance by the vaccines manufacturers, who after the discovery of the new strain,said that the vaccines will “probably” still be effective, public health experts have shown concerns that the new mutant strains could pose a threat to vaccination efforts.
What is certain is that the optimism we all felt about the mass rollout of COVID-19 vaccines has felt a bit short lived.
The answers of whether the new vaccines will be effective against the new strains are “probably”. We, the public, need “definitely” from the vaccine makers .