AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine. Dado Ruvic/Reuters

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot says his company’s COVID-19 vaccine “should remain effective” against mutated virus strains, reports The Sunday Times. 

“But we can’t be sure, so we’re going to test that,” Soriot told the newspaper.

A new virus strain discovered in the UK may be up to 70% more transmissible, according to Reuters.

At least 7 people in Japan tested positive for the new variant, reports The Associated Press. 

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AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine is expected to be effective against mutating COVID-19 strains, including those discovered in the UK and South Africa. 

“So far, we think the vaccine should remain effective,” CEO Pascal Soriot told The Sunday Times. 

“But we can’t be sure, so we’re going to test that,” he told the newspaper.

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot in London in 2014. Neil Hall/Reuters

As vaccine vials made their way around the world last week, news also spread of mutated coronavirus variants.

The first variant, discovered in the UK, had 23 documented changes. It could be about 70% more transmissible and had already infected about 40,000 people in the UK by midweek, per Reuters. The second variant was first found in South Africa but made its way to the UK last week, according to health officials. 

“This new variant is highly concerning because it is yet more transmissible and it appears to have mutated further than the new variant that has been discovered in the UK,” said Matt Hancock, British health secretary, on Wednesday.

As the strains spread, other countries closed their doors to UK visitors.

The new strain was discovered in Japan on Friday, brought by travelers from the UK, according to Reuters. About seven people, including five who had traveled from the UK to Japan, tested positive, The Associated Press reported on Sunday. 

On Monday, Japan plans a sweeping ban on foreigners entering the country, in part because of the new strains, according to The Associated Press. 

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In saying AstraZeneca’s vaccine will protect against strains of the coronavirus, Soriot echoed Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech. There was a “relatively high” possibility that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would work against variants, Sahin said last week. 

The UK government signed deals for 100 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed in partnership with Oxford University. That vaccine is the largest single order from the government, which has signed deals for 357 million doses of various vaccines. 

As of Christmas Eve, about 617,000 people in the UK had received doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, according to official statistics. 

The UK government is now reviewing vaccines from AstraZeneca and Moderna.

“The NHS across the UK is working incredibly hard to scale up the vaccination program as fast as they can to make sure everyone on the priority list can get their vaccine easily,” said Nadhim Zahawi, the minister overseeing vaccine deployment, in a statement.

 

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