Britain’s transport secretary has warned that the vaccines being rolled out to put an end to the Covid-19 pandemic may not work properly against the mutant variant of coronavirus first found in South Africa.

Speaking on Friday to LBC Radio, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there was concern amongst the scientific community as to whether the vaccines produced will offer protection against new virus strains. 

“The South African variant is worrying the experts because it may be that the vaccine doesn’t respond in the same way or doesn’t work in quite the same way,” Shapps said.

“This South African variant – this is a very big concern for the scientists.”

According to a laboratory study conducted by the US drug maker Pfizer, their Covid-19 vaccine still demonstrates efficacy against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in the UK and South Africa. 

The study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch, which is yet to be peer reviewed, suggested that vaccine was effective in neutralising the virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein. 

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At least 1.3 million people across the UK have received their first dose of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca’s vaccine. 

The country aims to immunise 13.9 million people before mid-February as infection rates soar in the winter months and lockdown measures struggle to contain the new ‘more transmissible’ virus variants. An estimated 68 million people live in the UK.

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