World faces around 4,000 COVID variants

“All manufacturers, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and others, are looking at how they can improve their vaccine to make sure that we are ready for any variant – there are about 4,000 variants around the world of COVID now.”

While thousands of variants have arisen as the virus mutates on replication, only a very small minority are likely to be important and to change the virus in an appreciable way, according to the British Medical Journal.

The so called British variant, known as VUI-202012/01, has mutations including a change in the spike protein that viruses use to bind to the human ACE2 receptor – meaning that it is probably easier to catch.

“We have the largest genome sequencing industry – we have about 50% of the world’s genome sequencing industry – and we are keeping a library of all the variants so that we are ready to respond – whether in the autumn or beyond – to any challenge that the virus may present and produce the next vaccine,” Zahawi said.