Now it turns out that some B.1.1.7 coronaviruses in the UK also have the E484K mutation.
To look for new mutations, British researchers examined the 214,159 genomes of coronavirus that the UK sequenced on January 26th. In its report, Public Health England said it had found 11 samples of variant B.1.1.7 that were also present with the E484K mutation.
Since that analysis, more of these viruses have come to light. NextStrain, a website where scientists collect and analyze coronavirus genomes, now identifies 16 B.1.1.7 variants that carry the E484K mutation.
These B.1.1.7 coronaviruses got the mutation thanks to random copying errors as they multiplied within humans. The coronavirus evolution tree suggests that 15 of the variants descended from a common ancestor that received the E484K mutation. The sixteenth variant now seems to have won the same mutation.
Kristian Andersen, a virologist at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., Commented on Monday’s report, saying it was still impossible to say whether the E484K mutation would make these coronaviruses not only more contagious but also more resistant to vaccines. “It is far too early to speculate on whether that will be the case. So we have to wait for dates,” he said.
Just because the E484K mutation helps the B.1351 variant, which was originally found in South Africa, doesn’t mean dodging antibodies does not mean that other variants do the same. That’s because mutations don’t have a fixed effect. The effect of a single new mutation on a virus depends on the other mutations that the variant already carries.
Answers to your vaccine questions
Am I eligible for the Covid vaccine in my state?
Currently more than 150 million people – almost half of the population – can be vaccinated. But each state makes the final decision on who goes first. The country’s 21 million healthcare workers and three million long-term care residents were the first to qualify. In mid-January, federal officials asked all states to open eligibility to anyone over 65 and adults of any age with medical conditions that are at high risk of becoming seriously ill or dying of Covid-19. Adults in the general population are at the end of the line. If federal and state health authorities can remove bottlenecks in the distribution of vaccines, everyone over the age of 16 is eligible as early as spring or early summer. The vaccine has not been approved in children, although studies are ongoing. It can take months before a vaccine is available to anyone under the age of 16. For the latest information on vaccination guidelines in your area, see your state health website
Is the Vaccine Free?
You shouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket to get the vaccine, despite being asked for insurance information. If you don’t have insurance, you should still get the vaccine for free. Congress passed law this spring banning insurers from applying cost-sharing such as a co-payment or deductible. It consisted of additional safeguards prohibiting pharmacies, doctors, and hospitals from charging patients, including uninsured patients. Even so, health experts fear that patients will end up in loopholes that make them prone to surprise bills. This may be the case for people who are charged a doctor’s visit fee with their vaccine, or for Americans who have certain types of health insurance that are not covered by the new regulations. When you get your vaccine from a doctor’s office or emergency clinic, talk to them about possible hidden costs. To make sure you don’t get a surprise invoice, it is best to get your vaccine at a Department of Health vaccination center or local pharmacy as soon as the shots become more widely available.
Can I choose which vaccine to get?How long does the vaccine last? Do I need another next year?
That is to be determined. It is possible that Covid-19 vaccinations will become an annual event just like the flu vaccination. Or the vaccine may last longer than a year. We’ll have to wait and see how durable the protection from the vaccines is. To determine this, researchers will track down vaccinated people to look for “breakthrough cases” – those people who get Covid-19 despite being vaccinated. This is a sign of a weakening of protection and gives researchers an indication of how long the vaccine will last. They will also monitor the levels of antibodies and T cells in the blood of people who have been vaccinated to see if and when a booster shot might be needed. It is conceivable that people might need boosters every few months, once a year, or just every few years. It’s just a matter of waiting for the data.
Does my employer need vaccinations?Where can I find out more?
In a report published online on Tuesday, Rajiv Gupta, a virologist at the University of Cambridge, and his colleagues reported on an experiment they had conducted to answer precisely that question. They combined the E484K mutation with other key mutations of variant B.1.1.7 originally found in the UK. The addition of the E484K mutation made it difficult for antibodies to block the viruses. The researchers wrote that they “observed a significant loss of neutralizing activity”.
Dr. However, Gupta and colleagues used antibodies from people who had only received the first of two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine. It remains to be seen whether variant B.1.1.7 with the new mutation E484K can evade antibodies after a full vaccination.