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NICD: Vaccines likely to still offer protection against B.1.1.529 variant

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The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said based on their understanding of the mutations in the B.1.1.529 lineage, partial immune escape is likely, but it is likely that vaccines will still offer high levels of protection against hospitalisation and death.

WORK IS UNDERWAY TO LOOK AT IMMUNE ESCAPE OF VARIANT 

“SARS-CoV-2, like all viruses, changes with time, with mutations that afford the virus some kind of advantage being selected for in recent infections. 

“While some of the mutations in the B.1.1.529 lineage have arisen in other SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern or variants of interest, we are being cautious about the implications while we gather more data to understand this lineage,” it said.

The NICD said work was already underway to look at the immune escape potential of B.1.1.529 in the laboratory setting. 

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“We are also establishing a real-time system to monitor hospitalisation and outcome associated with B.1.1.529. We expect new variants to continue to emerge wherever the virus is spreading.” 

VACCINATION REMAINS CRITICAL 

The NICD stressed that vaccination remains critical to protecting those in communities at high risk of hospitalisation and death, to reduce strain on the health system, and to help slow transmission.

“This must be in conjunction with all the other public health and social measures, so we advise the public to remain vigilant and continue to follow COVID-19 protocols by: ensuring good ventilation in all shared spaces, wearing masks (which cover your nose, mouth and chin), keeping 1.5m distance from others as much as possible and washing or sanitising your hands and surfaces regularly and keeping 1.5m distance from others as much as possible. 

“These non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) are still proven to prevent the spread of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses,” it said. 

Does infection with B.1.1.529 result in similar symptoms as with other variants?

“Currently, no unusual symptoms have been reported following infection with the B.1.1.529 variant, and as with other variants, some individuals are asymptomatic,” the NICD said.

How do the C.1.2, Beta or Delta variants differ from the B.1.1.529 lineage?

The NICD said while the B.1.1.529 lineage shares a few common mutations with the C.1.2, Beta, and Delta variants, it also has a number of additional mutations. 

At present, the B.1.1.529 lineage is relatively distinct from the C.1.2, Beta and Delta variants and has a different evolutionary pathway.

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