A top official with Operation Warp Speed on Monday said there was “no evidence” that the new mutant coronavirus strain in the UK was more transmissible, more pathogenic or linked to higher morbidity.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, senior medical adviser for Operation Warp Speed, told reporters in a call that it would take several weeks of laboratory work to isolate and cultivate the virus to reach a definitive conclusion.
“I think that, from a scientific point of view, so far there is no clear evidence that this virus is actually more transmissible,” Slaoui said, adding, “the key point is that there is no evidence that this virus is more pathogenic,” he said. more problems, more morbidity or mortality increases than the previous virus. ”
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the mutant strain could be 70% more transmissible, although this figure is based on early projections and there is still significant uncertainty about the issue. However, Johnson announced level 4 restrictions over the weekend, introducing new blockades in London and the south-east of England to reduce the spread of the mutant virus strain.
Slaoui said there is “clear evidence” that the variant is more present in the population, however, it is not clear whether it is due to a more transmissible strain or is now more easily identified due to ongoing sequencing.
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“The way to demonstrate the increased transmissibility of the virus would be, for example, in animal studies,” he continued. “To do this, you have to isolate the virus, grow it, cultivate it. That takes a few weeks and that’s ongoing so we can definitely conclude that the reason there’s more of this virus in a population is that it transmits better than the pre-existing virus. “
However, just hours earlier, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC the opposite.
“We now believe this is more transmissible,” he said, adding that coronavirus vaccines are likely to need updates every few years as the virus’s surface proteins evolve to become unrecognizable to antibodies.
Despite the narrative discrepancy, Johnson announced Monday that more than 500,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the UK to protect the most vulnerable populations. Health experts are confident that COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna should continue to be effective against the mutant strain.