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Doctor urges Pfizer, Moderna vaccine to fight B.1.351 variant

Neill Fronde



PHOTO: Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are most effective against the B.1.351 variant (via Quartz)

Reacting to the news that the B.1.351 variant of Covid-19 (commonly nicknamed the South African variant) has now been found in Thailand, a senior doctor at the Siriraj Centre of Research Excellence Management has called upon the government to obtain Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccine as quickly as possible. In a Facebook post yesterday, the doctor suggested that Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are most likely to be effective against this new strain.

Those two vaccines have been 75% effective in tests, while Johnson & Johnson was 66% effective and Novavax was 60.1% effective. The doctor pointed out that the main vaccines Thailand are using currently, AstraZeneca and Sinovac, have a very low efficacy rate against the B.1.351 variant. A test showed that AstraZeneca dropped to just 10.4% efficacy against the new strain.

The B.1.351 variant is a mutation where the spike protein attaches easily to human cells but it’s very difficult for antibodies to attach to, making it especially resistant to antibodies and vaccines. It is the most resistant of all known strains to vaccines, more so than the P.1 variant found first in Brazil. The B.1.671.2 variant first found in India and just recently found domestically transmitting in Thailand, may not be any more resistant to the current vaccines.

The senior doctor urged Thailand to be proactive and import other brands of vaccines that are more effective on this variant like Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson before the strain spreads all the way across Thailand. So far it has only been reported in the southern province of Narathiwat, near the Malaysian border. It was detected this weekend in samples taken on May 13 from undocumented migrant workers.

Before now, the B.1.351 variant had only been spotted once in Thailand, and it was from an internationally arriving passenger from Tanzania in February who was in mandatory quarantine on arrival, so it was thought not to have made it all the way into Thailand. It was hoped that it would not get through the quarantine and into the general population for local transmission. Now health officials hope to contain the variant in the south of Thailand before it spreads to Bangkok and beyond.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World


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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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