Feb 7, 2021 - Health

AstraZeneca vaccine could be modified to protect against South Africa variant by fall, researchers say

Sarah Gilbert, a co-developer of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, told the BBC on Sunday that an updated vaccine will likely be available this fall to combat the COVID-19 strain first detected in South Africa.

Why it matters: The variant found in South Africa has concerned experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, and there have been several confirmed cases of the likely more transmissible strain in the U.S.

Driving the news: Researchers from Oxford and the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa recently found that AztraZeneca's vaccine "provides minimal protection" against infection from the South African strain, Oxford said in a press release on Sunday. The analysis of roughly 2,000 adults not yet been peer-reviewed.

What they're saying: "We're getting prepared with different versions of the virus, and we'll be ready if we need to use them," Gilbert said, noting that the first part of the manufacturing process is already underway at Oxford and is expected to continue to other points of the supply chain through the spring.

"We see very much probably an annual or booster in the autumn and then an annual (jab), in the way we do with flu vaccinations where you look at what variant of virus is spreading around the world, rapidly produce a variant of vaccine and then begin to vaccinate and protect the nation," said Nadhim Zahawi, the U.K.'s vaccine minister.

Go deeper: What you need to know about the coronavirus variants

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