Scientists say UK strain unlikely to affect efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, warn against more mutations

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The faster spreading coronavirus strain first detected in the UK is unlikely to make vaccines less effective as of now but the preventives may need to be appropriately altered if more mutations occur over time, say scientists.

More than 40 countries, including India, have banned travel to and from the UK, a move several scientists said was necessary in view of the rapid spread of the new viral strain, VUI-202012/0, that was detected on September 21.

According to Jeremy Farrar, director of the London-based research charity Wellcome Trust UK, there is no indication at the moment that the new strain would evade treatments and vaccines.

However, the mutation is a reminder of the power of the virus to adapt, and that cannot be ruled out in the future. Acting urgently to reduce transmission is critical, Farrar said in a statement.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) announced on Sunday that the rapid increase of a SARS-CoV-2 variant with multiple spike protein mutations have been observed in the UK.

Preliminary modelling results communicated by the UK on December 19 suggest that the variant is significantly more transmissible than previously circulating variants, with an estimated increase in reproductive number (R) by 0.4 or greater with an estimated increased transmissibility of up to 70 per cent, EDC said in a statement.

R number denotes the expected cases directly generated by one case in a population while transmissibility is the ability of a virus to be passed on from one person to another.

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