By ETHAN ENNALS FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY
Experts told The Mail on Sunday that there is one jab ready to go that might already be highly effective against this version of the virus: the one developed by French firm Valneva and ordered by the UK Government – but then cancelled.
It could have an advantage over current jabs because the way it’s been made differs.
It contains what is known as a fully inactivated virus – a whole Covid virus that has been neutralised.
Though it can’t cause illness, the immune system reacts by recognising the threat and creating antibodies and other fighter cells, enabling the body to fight off the real virus if it becomes infected.
Other shots such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca use genetic fragments from one part of the Covid virus, called the spike protein – the section that allows it to bind with healthy cells.
It is this part that’s prone to mutations: the 32 mutations seen in the Botswana variant are all found on the spike protein, which increases the chances that the antibodies developed in response to the above vaccines may not ‘recognise’ it, allowing the virus to slip past.
Since the Valneva jab has more parts of the virus for the immune system to learn from, experts believe it could be more ‘variant-proof’ than the others.
Professor Adam Finn, paediatrician and member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the Government’s advisory group, says there is a ‘strong theoretical argument’ that the Valneva jab could provide protection against the Botswana variant.
‘This is potentially a more resilient vaccine,’ he said.
‘Obviously we’d need to look at how it reacts to this particular variant but I think there’s a strong argument for doing that right now.’
Trial results published last month found two doses of Valneva were 95 per cent effective at preventing infection. The trial of 4,000 participants also reported no cases of severe illness.
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