Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the UK government, has announced that a new coronavirus variant discovered in Brazil could potentially affect the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
This development comes as the UK appears poised to ban flights from Brazil, and possibly the rest of South America, over concerns about that coronavirus mutation.
During an interview with ITV News' political editor Robert Peston, Vallance remarked that that there's no evidence that any of the coronavirus' variants result in a more severe symptoms.
"There’s no evidence at all with any of these variants that it makes the disease itself more severe," he said. "So the changes that we’re seeing with the variants are largely around increased transmission."
Vallance also argued that there's no proof that the "UK version" of the virus "makes a difference in terms of how the immune system recognises it," suggesting that if a person gets exposed to an "old variant" or gets vaccinated, "it looks like that’s going to work just as well with this new variant as with the UK one."
"The South African one and Brazilian one, we don’t know for sure," he added. "There’s a bit more of a risk that this might make a change to the way the immune system recognises it but we don’t know. Those experiments are underway."
Earlier this week, the British government revealed that some 1,600 military health care specialists were working in hospitals to support NHS efforts to handle the pandemic, with the total number of cases in the UK passing the 3,160,000 mark, with at least 83,200 COVID-19-related deaths so far reported in the country.