Oxford vaccine scientists assure jab is effective against South African variant

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This Morning hosts Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield spoke to two scientists who are behind the new Oxford coronavirus vaccine.

The hosts spoke to Professor Katie Ewer, associate professor and senior immunologist, and Dr Maheshi Ramasamy from the Oxford vaccine team.

They said they had no concerns that the new South African variant would render the vaccine ineffective.

Professor Katie said: "I think it’s important to know about how the vaccine works, it trains your immune system to recognise the spike protein on the outside of the virus.

"But your antibodies and your white blood cells and your immune system, they don’t just recognise one part of that spike, they recognise lots of different parts of it.

"So even if there are odd mutations here and there, you will still have other antibodies that can recognise other parts of the spike.

Professor Katie Ewer explained that the majority of the vaccine already existed as the pandemic was so likely
(Image: ITV)

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"So at the moment I am not very concerned about that, I think its something we need to keep monitoring and looking at, but at the moment I don’t think there is any reason to suspect the vaccine won’t work on the new variants.

"This is a platform technology, and if we had to make a new version of  the vaccine we could do that, but I don’t think that's where we are going at the moment."

Phillip explained that Professor Sarah Gilbert [Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford and co-founder of Vaccitech] predicted there would be a global pandemic, and so created a template for the vaccine, which could be adapted to combat multiple diseases.

Phil asked about the likelihood that the new South African variant would affect the vaccine

"So there was a foundation in place just in case?" asked Phillip.

Professor Katie replied: "Yes that's right, a lot of the work we do at the Jenner [Institute] is based on this platform technology, and we've designed lots of different vaccines around the same technology.

"The idea is you have a system ready to go that you can adapt to any new disease so that we can respond as quickly as possible, and be ready to make millions of doses if something like this happened.

Dr Maheshi Ramasamy said the vaccine is the best way out from the pandemic
(Image: ITV)

"We had already tested this type of vaccine on lots of different people for lots of different diseases like Malaria, flu and Ebola, before Covid even happened."

"What surprised me was that you adapted it very quickly, the time it's taken in testing it and making sure it's safe," said Phil.

Professor Katie replied: "A lot of the background work had already been done, all of the safety testing had been previously done for different diseases, we knew how to make millions of doses using this type of technology.

(Image: ITV)

"We knew how to be able to store it in a fridge.

"So although this feels like a new vaccine, actually, the vast majority of it has been around for more than a decade."

Asked by Phil what she had to say to anti-vaxxers, Doctor Maheshi said: "At the end of the day, people need to make their own decisions about whether to have the vaccine.

"What I would say is, as someone who has seen the first hand effects of this disease on patients, their families, and across the NHS and our ability to deliver things like cancer services and non urgent operations.

"To me, it's clear that a vaccine is an important way out of this, and I would encourage everyone who is offered a vaccine, to have one."

* This Morning airs weekdays on ITV at 10am

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