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Top virologist warns of vaccine limitations against South African, Brazilian variants



PHOTO: Steven Cornfield on Unsplash

A prominent Thai virologist says Thailand must prevent the arrival of the South African (also known as 20H/501Y.V2, B.1.351 lineage) or Brazilian Covid-19 (B.1.1.248) variants, warning that vaccines are not fully effective against those strains, or at least there is not enough conclusive information about their efficacy against the new variants at this stage.

Yong Poovorawan from Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University was addressing a press conference at the Public Health Ministry when he issued the warning.

“We have to be cautious about which novel variants are being imported into our country.”

Yong says the surfaces of the variants carry different protein spikes to those found in the original strain of the virus. This means the virus takes on a different shape, making it more difficult for the human immune system to recognise it.

The Bangkok Post reports that Yong has suggested improved quarantine to keep variants out, but admits this is not fool-proof, given the recent arrival of the UK, or B.1.1.7, variant. He is also calling on the public not to be so concerned about which vaccine they are offered, insisting all the vaccines have been proven safe and effective at reducing serious illness (with very few side effects).

“We can be assured about the quality and efficacy of the vaccines, including those that we have here in Thailand.”

However, over the weekend, a prominent disease control expert in China admitted that their country’s Covid-19 vaccines have “low” effectiveness. There is speculation the country plans to produce mRNA-based vaccines, similar to those manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna, which China has previously tried to discredit.

The overall efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine, the most well-known of the four developed in China, was found to be as low as 50.4% during late stage trials in Brazil although the performance was better in Indonesia and Turkey.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post


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  1. toby andrews

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:01 am

    You are not wrong Yong, but who cares very few persons are being vaccinated in Thailand anyway.
    0.06 percent?
    A joke!!

  2. Gosport

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:11 am

    The problem is they don’t know how to make the vaccine roll out,variants pop up every day, they are waiting for cure all jab.

    China does not say its vaccine low efficacy, read China Daily.

  3. EdwardV

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:32 am

    “ which China has previously tried to discredit.” – would expect nothing less.

  4. Dreqo

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:36 am

    Whelp, you’ll just have to keep the borders closed to tourists from everywhere, for the next decade I guess.

  5. Simon Small

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:43 am

    Increasing doubts about the effectiveness of Astra Zeneca against variants, too, with the figure of “10%” being suggested by some studies.

  6. Ian Bromley

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    The AstraZeneca vaccine is 10% effective against the South African variant. The South African government got rid of its supply of this vaccine and replaced it with the J&J one which is about 50% effective and is a single shot. They have enough of this vaccine to cover their entire population this year. Kinda makes Thailand look like the bunch of amateurs they truly are. The creation of a new Thai vaccine procurement team, minus the delightful Anutin, which was announced yesterday indicates panic at the top because the AstraZeneca production here is not going to meet the targets, just like in Brazil where it has delivered 4% of contracted volume despite using a very experienced production partner, unlike the production novices here. Get ready for a debacle.

  7. Jesus Monroe

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    Well if the china daily says its vaccine is not low efficacy it must be the truth…….they never lie…….

  8. Jesus Monroe

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 2:19 pm

    Astra Zeneca is history…….

  9. Alavan

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 4:26 pm

    Check CNN today.
    “Chinese Covid-19 vaccine efficacy is ‘not high,’ top health official admits”, and that from a Chinese official.

  10. Simon Small

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 4:53 pm

    Seems that way, Jesus Monroe, and some won’t be raking it in as they thought they would.

    As Ian Bromley said, as others have before, stand by for the fallout.

  11. John2

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 7:23 pm

    Yong is saying the same thing as I have been saying for a while, its the Brazilian version they need to watch out for. Lock downs and forgetting tourism is the only way forward.

  12. GeorgeA

    Monday, April 12, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    CCP doesn’t care which vaccine actually works best, they will always say theirs is the best

  13. LondonAl

    Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 2:45 am

    “The AstraZeneca vaccine is 10% effective against the South African variant”, says one tiny study of 2,000 people, surprisingly you forgot to mention that in this same study there were no cases of hospitalization for severe Covid-19 or deaths observed.

  14. Social Observer

    Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 8:01 am

    The doctor says the South African and Brazilian variants must be kept out of Thailand. And does he propose to do that ? It’s very likely those variants are circulating widely in Thailand and steadily becoming the dominant strains.

  15. Nipral

    Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 4:44 pm

    There is no such a thing as a Thai prominent virologist !

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