More data needed to determine if new Coronavirus variant renders vaccines useless

Published January 14, 2021, 7:26 PM

by Aaron Recuenco 

Would the new variant of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) first detected in the United Kingdom render the current vaccines ineffective?

One of the top infectious disease experts in the country said on Thursday that there is no data so far that the new variant of the coronavirus will affect the effectivity of the existing vaccines that are now being used in various countries.

In a press briefing during the ceremonial signing of an agreement for the procurement of AstraZeneca vaccine, Dr. Rontgene Solante said there is a need for more data to determine if the new variant, which was already detected in the Philippines, will reduce the ability of the vaccine to protect the people from infection.

“At this point in time, that mutation may not be major enough to alter the effectiveness of the current vaccine,” said Solante in a press briefing.

“But until we have good data to say that there will be more  major mutations that can somehow alter the antibody production or the ability of the antibody to recognize the virus or not recognize the virus, then we will have to monitor that,” said Solante.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health confirmed the presence of the coronavirus mutation from the samples taken from a Filipino who arrived from the United Arab Emirates on January 7.

Solante explained that the new coronavirus variant has increased risk of transmissibility. On the other hand, health experts warned that the new variant would result in the ballooning of infection rate in the country.

The  confirmation of the new variant in the Philippines comes while the government is still struggling to procure vaccines for COVID-19.

The procurement of the vaccines for the Philippines, however, was reported to have been mishandled by some government officials which left the country empty-handed when the vaccines became available. Currently, several countries have already started vaccinating their citizens.

At this point in the absence of the vaccine, Solante said the government must strengthen the implementation of the health protocol measures because of the new variant’s increased risk of transmissibility.

Another one, he said, is to intensify the surveillance for possible local transmission.

“The chances are always there, as long as we will not be doing the surveillance. We have to have up-to-date surveillance in all cases especially if there is a surge of cases in the local setting or those with cases having a unique number of severe form of infection in some of those areas,” said Solante.

He added the strengthening of the surveillance is now on the drawing board of the government.