“It remains a low minority variant in SA right now,” she said. “Also, while it does have some mutations that concern us, it also has many that are familiar to us as we have seen them in the Beta and Delta variants too. This means we do have an understanding from earlier studies of what we can expect from how it will behave in terms of vaccines.”
She added: “Those experiments are ongoing and we can’t say definitively that the variant is more or less sensitive at this point … but despite the emergence of such variants, all the vaccines maintain efficacy against severe disease and death. We have considerable confidence that the vaccines rolled out here will protect against severe disease and death.”
According to Prof Adrian Puren, acting executive director of the NICD, an early warning was important and that “we don’t want to be caught on the back foot” but “we also want to allay concerns and not create panic”.
“Our current vaccines are potent and effective, and we also want to emphasise that non- pharmaceutical interventions remain critical,” he said, adding that continuing to get as many people vaccinated as possible was key.
He said there may be other variants that emerge and that it is critical for people to still get vaccinated.