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Karim: No scientific proof that COVID-19 vaccines effective against new variant

Professor Karim said that the vaccines that had been made available had not been found to be effective against the new variant.

A resident of the Anni Azzurri elderly care home in Rome receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as part of the coronavirus vaccination campaign by healthcare workers of Asl Roma 1 on 8 January 2021. Picture: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Epidemiologist Professor Salim Abdool Karim said that there was no scientific evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines were effective against the new variant.

The 501Y.V2 variant is now spreading in the country, a different type to what was making the rounds during the first wave.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize hosted a panel discussion with scientists where more information on the new variant was shared.

This type is understood to be spreading more rapidly but experts sa_id _it wasn't more severe.

The new variant, which has been identified in South Africa, is not limited to the country but differs from other types of the coronavirus seen around the world.

Professor Karim said that the vaccines that had been made available had not been found to be effective against the new variant.

So should South Africa change its vaccine approach?

"In my view, the answer is no, not at this stage. The vaccines that we see with Moderna and Pfizer are at 95% efficacy and are amongst the most effective vaccine that we have for any disease."

Professor Willem Hannekom from the Africa Health Institute still insisted that South Africans should take the available vaccines.

"Our immune systems are extraordinarily clever, so although there may be small changes in the virus and therefore the antibodies may not be binding as well, there may be compensation through other arms of the immune system that allow vaccines to still work."

Government has already announced its vaccine rollout plan and the country should receive 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this month.

WATCH: 501Y.V2 COVID-19 variant update: spreads 50% faster, not more severe

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