Chief Scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance addressed comments from Health Secretary Matt Hancock who suggested the South African variant may result in the Pfizer vaccine being 50 percent less effective. He insisted there was no evidence yet that suggested that this was true. Boris Johnson held a press conference on Friday evening to inform the public on the latest changes in the fight against the coronavirus crisis.
The Prime Minister admitted that there was evidence to suggest that the new UK variant of coronavirus were more fatal than its predecessor.
He did note that both the current vaccines remain effective against both variants, however.
During the briefing, Sir Patrick said: “It is important to recognise that there is no evidence that the South African or Brazillian variants have transmission advantages over what is already here.
“They wouldn’t be expected to spread more quickly or take over, they actually may have less, we don’t know.”
After reflecting on the possibility of the South African variant spreading more easily, Sir Patrick commented on the coronavirus vaccines effectiveness against these variants.
He said: “I am going to be a bore about this because these are difficult laboratory studies.
“People are trying to look at how effectively antibodies neutralise various forms of the virus.
“They will get different results in different laboratories and not every immune response is an antibody response.
In what is reportedly a recording of an online webinar with travel agents this week, obtained by MailOnline, he said: “There is evidence in the public domain, although we are not sure of this data so I wouldn’t say this in public, but that the South African variant reduces by about 50% the vaccine efficacy.”
He added: “We’re testing that and we’ve got some of the South African variant in Porton Down, and we’re testing it. We’ve got a clinical trial in South Africa to check that the AstraZeneca vaccine works.
“Nevertheless, if we vaccinated the population, and then you got in a new variant that evaded the vaccine, then we’d be back to square one.”