SINGAPORE – Existing vaccines against Covid-19 will be effective at warding off infections against new strains of the coronavirus, a US doctor told CNBC this week.
His comments came after the UK identified a new mutation of the virus on Saturday that can spread faster than previous variants.
Countries like Italy, Germany, Canada and Israel have suspended flights from the UK after reports of the new strain.
Vin Gupta, an associate assistant professor at the Institute of Health Metrics and Assessment at the University of Washington, said he was confident that current vaccines will protect against various strains of Covid.
“There is a strong belief here that the vaccine as it exists today, in addition to the old strain we have struggled with for months, will have an effective defense against infection by this new strain in England,” said Gupta.
That’s because the new strain is likely “very similar” to previous strains at a genetic level, he told CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Monday.
The effectiveness of these vaccines in making antibodies that can really attack and kill Covid-19 is exceptional
Affiliate Assistant Professor
He added that the vaccines produce “a really strong response in the body for making antibodies”.
Vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have reported efficacy rates in excess of 90%. Great Britain was the first country in the world to approve and introduce the emergency vaccine developed by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. The United States and Canada are among a handful of countries that have approved the use of the vaccine for emergency purposes as well.
“The effectiveness of these vaccines in making antibodies that can really attack and kill Covid-19 is exceptional,” he said. “I don’t expect these minor changes at the genetic level … to affect vaccine performance in the short term.”
Close-up of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccination bottle.
Hugh Hastings | Getty Images News | Getty Images
However, future versions of the vaccine may need to take into account new strains of the virus, as well as flu vaccines being updated, Gupta said.
“I think this could have an impact on our future work, but it won’t have any impact in the short term,” he said. “It will not affect the effectiveness of current vaccines in ending the pandemic.”
Dr. Vivek Murthy, chosen as the next US surgeon general by President-elect Joe Biden, spoke on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.
“There is no reason to believe that the vaccines developed are not effective [the new U.K. strain] also, “he said, adding that there is no evidence that the new variant is more lethal.
“Being at home hearing this news will not change our precautions as people who can reduce the spread of this virus,” said Murthy, who was previously also a surgeon-general for the Obama administration. “It turns out that masking, keeping physical distance and washing our hands … these are still the pillars of preventing the transmission of Covid.”
– CNBC’s Ryan Browne contributed to this report.