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Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine appears effective against mutation in new strains from UK, South Africa – CNBC

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A doctor holds an ampoule of the Corona vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer between his fingers in the pharmacy of the University Hospital Tübingen (UKT).
Sebastian Gollnow | picture alliance | Getty Images

LONDON — A coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech appears to be effective against a key mutation in the more infectious variants of the virus discovered in the U.K. and South Africa, according to a study conducted by the U.S. pharmaceutical giant.

It comes as countries scramble to contain the variants that are significantly more transmissible, with public health experts anxious about the potential impact on inoculation efforts.

The research, published Thursday on preprint server bioRxiv and not yet peer-reviewed, suggested the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine worked to neutralize the so-called N501Y mutation.

The N501Y mutation has been reported in the more infectious variants. It is altering an amino acid within six key residues in the receptor-binding domain — a key part of the spike protein that the virus uses to gain entry into cells within the body.

“These findings are good news for the likely effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against these new variants of SARS-CoV-2,” said Dr. Michael Baker, an epidemiologist at the University of Otago in Wellington, New Zealand.

“In other words, the Pfizer vaccine is likely to induce immunity that covers the two new more infectious variants originating in England and South Africa,” he added.

Pfizer and researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch conducted the study on blood taken from people who had been given the Covid-19 vaccine.

The findings are limited, however, because the study does not look at the full set of mutations found in either of the new rapidly spreading variants.

“Pfizer and BioNTech have tested sera from people immunized with the BNT162b2 vaccine for its ability to neutralize multiple mutant strains,” a Pfizer spokesperson told CNBC via email on Friday, referring to the official name of the Covid vaccine.

“To date, we have found consistent coverage of all the strains tested. The two companies are now generating data on how well sera from people immunized with BNT162b2, may be able to neutralize new strains.”

‘We urgently need data’

Researchers hope to have more data on whether the vaccines work against other mutations found in the U.K. and South Africa variants in the coming weeks, Reuters reported.

“It’s important to note that the study does not actually examine these variants directly but only focuses on one single mutation in these variants (the 501Y mutation),” Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, told CNBC via email on Friday.

“So, while it’s reassuring that one mutation within these variants is not associated with escape from vaccines, at least in the laboratory, we urgently need data on these mutations, and preferably on the variant virus with a combination of mutations, as these may act differently in combination.”

The World Health Organization said last month that health authorities were “urgently investigating” whether the N501Y mutation may have any impact on vaccine performance.

Of particular concern is the variant of the virus that emerged in South Africa. That’s because this variant carries two other mutations in the spike protein (E484K and K417N, among others) which are not present in the U.K. strain, named “VOC-202012/01,” with VOC standing for “Variant of Concern.”

Gurdasani said the E484K mutation was “particularly concerning” because it had been associated with significantly reduced neutralization by antibodies in the laboratory.

To date, more than 88.1 million people have contracted the coronavirus worldwide, with 1.9 million deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

— CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this report.

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Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: BC lawyer – Comox Valley Record – Comox Valley Record

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With COVID-19 vaccines expected to reach the masses in July, questions are being raised as to whether employers in B.C. will take a step further and require worker immunization.

Kelowna-based lawyer David Mardiros, with Kent Employment Law, said the issue isn’t a new one – it’s come up in B.C. arbitrations at least twice.

In 2006, arbitrators upheld a hospital’s policy, forcing a union nurse to either immunize from influenza during an outbreak or take an unpaid leave of absence at work.

So far, in B.C. “most cases have been within the healthcare sector,” Mardiros said.

Another was settled with the employee consenting to wearing a mask to work during an influenza outbreak in 2013.

“It was an option the employee found reasonable.”

RELATED: B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

The COVID-19 pandemic is new and uncharted territory for employers and employees across the province, with every workplace impacted by its spread.

Though enforcing work policies is legal, whether a wide-reaching vaccination mandate would hold up in court is another matter, Mardiros said.

Ultimately, an employer must make the case – using expert science – that requiring their staff to be vaccinated from COVID-19 is necessary.

Especially when “an accommodation can be made where worker can work from home or use personal protective equipment to prevent transmission of the disease.”

In bustling restaurants, where employees are frequently interacting with the public, such a case might prove more reasonable, said the lawyer.

“However, if their case can’t be proven, an employee fired for not vaccinating could sue for wrongful dismissal.”

READ MORE: B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Some halthcare workers and those in longterm care homes in B.C. were the first to be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in December.

Currently, the province has not made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for nurses, doctors, and other frontline staff in hospitals. Employees are instead “encouraged” to get it, according to a Jan. 9 statement from the province.

On Friday, B.C. health authorities rolled out a four-phased plan that begins with seniors older than 80 receiving immunizations this February.

By September, members of the general public, as young as 18, are expected to be able to receive their dose.

“We’re all going to have to make the decision: to vaccinate or not,” Mardiros said.


@sarahgrowch
sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

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Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: BC lawyer – Salmon Arm Observer – Salmon Arm Observer

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With COVID-19 vaccines expected to reach the masses in July, questions are being raised as to whether employers in B.C. will take a step further and require worker immunization.

Kelowna-based lawyer David Mardiros, with Kent Employment Law, said the issue isn’t a new one – it’s come up in B.C. arbitrations at least twice.

In 2006, arbitrators upheld a hospital’s policy, forcing a union nurse to either immunize from influenza during an outbreak or take an unpaid leave of absence at work.

So far, in B.C. “most cases have been within the healthcare sector,” Mardiros said.

Another was settled with the employee consenting to wearing a mask to work during an influenza outbreak in 2013.

“It was an option the employee found reasonable.”

RELATED: B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

The COVID-19 pandemic is new and uncharted territory for employers and employees across the province, with every workplace impacted by its spread.

Though enforcing work policies is legal, whether a wide-reaching vaccination mandate would hold up in court is another matter, Mardiros said.

Ultimately, an employer must make the case – using expert science – that requiring their staff to be vaccinated from COVID-19 is necessary.

Especially when “an accommodation can be made where worker can work from home or use personal protective equipment to prevent transmission of the disease.”

In bustling restaurants, where employees are frequently interacting with the public, such a case might prove more reasonable, said the lawyer.

“However, if their case can’t be proven, an employee fired for not vaccinating could sue for wrongful dismissal.”

READ MORE: B.C. turns to second doses of COVID-19 vaccine as supplies slow

Some halthcare workers and those in longterm care homes in B.C. were the first to be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in December.

Currently, the province has not made the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for nurses, doctors, and other frontline staff in hospitals. Employees are instead “encouraged” to get it, according to a Jan. 9 statement from the province.

On Friday, B.C. health authorities rolled out a four-phased plan that begins with seniors older than 80 receiving immunizations this February.

By September, members of the general public, as young as 18, are expected to be able to receive their dose.

“We’re all going to have to make the decision: to vaccinate or not,” Mardiros said.


@sarahgrowch
sarah.grochowski@bpdigital.ca

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Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine – The Tri-City News

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WHITEHORSE — A cabinet minister says a couple from outside Yukon travelled to a remote community in the territory this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Community Services Minister John Streiker says he’s outraged the man and woman allegedly chartered a flight to Beaver Creek, the most westerly community in Canada near the border with Alaska, to get the shots.

Streiker says he heard Thursday night that the Canadian couple arrived in Yukon on Tuesday and declared they would follow the territory’s mandatory two-week self-isolation protocol, but instead travelled to Beaver Creek.

He says the two people have been charged under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for failure to self-isolate and failure to behave in a manner consistent with their declaration upon arrival.

Streiker says the couple allegedly presented themselves as visiting workers, misleading staff at the mobile vaccination clinic in Beaver Creek.

He says territorial enforcement officers received a call about the couple, who were later intercepted at the Whitehorse airport trying to leave Yukon.

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail.

The RCMP have been notified, he said in an interview on Friday.

Streiker hadn’t confirmed where the couple are from, but he said they didn’t show Yukon health cards at the vaccination clinic.

Yukon has two vaccination teams that are visiting communities throughout the territory with priority going to residents and staff of group-living settings, health-care workers, people over 80 who aren’t living in long-term care, and Yukoners living in rural, remote and First Nation communities.

Beaver Creek was chosen as a priority community to receive doses of COVID-19 vaccine because it’s a remote border community, he said.

Yukon’s chief medical officer of health has indicated he believes the risk to the community as a result of the couple’s visit is low, Streiker added.

Streiker said there may be more scrutiny at vaccine clinics when people show up from outside Yukon, but officials are still working through options to prevent such a situation from happening again.

“I find it frustrating because what that does is it makes more barriers,” he said. “We’ve been trying to remove all barriers to get the vaccine for our citizens and so if there’s another sort of layer of check, I just don’t want it to make it harder for Yukoners to get their vaccines.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 22, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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