UK virus variant ‘extremely unlikely’ to evade vaccines: Scientists

UK virus variant ‘extremely unlikely’ to evade vaccines: Scientists
A healthcare professional prepares a dose of Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for health and social care workers at the Life Science Centre at the International Centre for Life in Newcastle upon Tyne, northeast England, on January 9, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 10 January 2021

UK virus variant ‘extremely unlikely’ to evade vaccines: Scientists

UK virus variant ‘extremely unlikely’ to evade vaccines: Scientists
  • Findings quash fear that jabs could soon be outdated, professor says

LONDON: The UK variant of coronavirus detected worldwide is “extremely unlikely” to dodge immune responses from vaccines or previous COVID-19 infections, leading scientists have said.

US researchers found that antibodies collected from coronavirus patients seldom attacked new mutations contained in the variant. 

The findings suggest that only 0.5 percent of people are at risk of reduced protection against mutations present in the new form of the virus.

Scientists say the study has allayed fears that vaccines being distributed worldwide might be ineffective against the new variant.

Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University in the US, said: “The variant is unlikely to escape recognition by antibodies generated by prior infection or vaccines.”

Iwasaki, who worked with a team at US biotechnology company Serimmune, collected 579 antibodies from coronavirus patients and examined which continuous strands of virus protein they targeted.

The majority attacked the same center of the virus, meaning antibody defenses will not be weakened as new mutations are contained elsewhere in the virus.

Although the study is awaiting peer review, Iwasaki’s team found that only 0.3 percent of those studied had antibodies that were less likely to attack the defenses of the new coronavirus variant.

“I believe it is important to give the first shots to as many people as possible, given the emergence of several more contagious variants on the rise,” said Iwasaki. 

“The second dose should be given, when available, as close to the recommended original schedule as possible, but a slight delay is not expected to significantly reduce the efficacy,” she added.

“People should wear masks and stay away from crowded indoor gatherings, even after getting the vaccines.”

Danny Altmann, a professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said the study “should comfort people” who are worried that the new variants found in the UK and South Africa could be resistant to vaccines. The findings suggest that most people’s antibodies will neutralize either variant, he added.

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
Updated 4 min 35 sec ago

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas

US gun lobby NRA declares bankruptcy, plans to incorporate in Texas
  • NRA execs are facing charges of illegally diverting funds for lavish personal trips and other questionable expenditures
  • New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight

AUSTIN, Texas: The National Rifle Association announced Friday it has filed for bankruptcy protection and will seek to incorporate the nation’s most politically influential gun-rights group in Texas instead of New York.
The announcement came months after New York’s attorney general sued the organization over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish personal trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.
The coronavirus pandemic has also upended the NRA, which last year laid off dozens of employees. The group canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising. The NRA’s bankruptcy filing listed between $100 million and $500 million in assets and between $100 million and $500 million in liabilities. Still, the NRA claimed in announcing the move that the organization was “in its strongest financial condition in years.”
The NRA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in federal court in Dallas and said it planned to incorporate in Texas, where records show it formed a limited liability corporation, Sea Girt LLC, in November 2020. Sea Girt LLC made a separate bankruptcy filing Friday, listing fewer than $100,000 in liabilities.
In its filing, the NRA said its longtime leader, Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, made the decision to file for bankruptcy protection in consultation with a “special litigation committee” comprised of three NRA officials that was formed in September to oversee its legal strategies. The NRA board voted Jan. 7 to clarify LaPierre’s employment agreement, giving him the power to “reorganize or restructure the affairs” of the organization.

National Rifle Association executive Wayne LaPierre and other officials of the gun lobby are facing charges of diverting the gun lobby's money for lavish personal expenses. (AFP file photo)

“The move will enable long-term, sustainable growth and ensure the NRA’s continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom – free from the toxic political environment of New York,” the NRA said in a statement.
A message seeking comment was left with a Dallas lawyer who made the bankruptcy filings on behalf of the NRA and Sea Girt LLC.
Shortly after the announcement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she would not allow the NRA to “evade accountability” or oversight. Her office’s lawsuit last year highlighted misspending and self-dealing claims that have roiled the NRA and LaPierre in recent years— from hair and makeup for his wife to a $17 million post-employment contract for himself.
“The NRA’s claimed financial status has finally met its moral status: bankrupt,” James said.
The gun-rights group boasts about 5 million members. Though headquartered in Virginia, the NRA was chartered as a nonprofit in New York in 1871 and is incorporated in the state. Going forward, the NRA said a committee will study opportunities to relocate segments of its operations to Texas and elsewhere.
The NRA’s largest creditor, owed $1.2 million, is Ackerman McQueen, which is the group’s former advertising agency that was behind the now-shuttered NRA TV service. The NRA sued the Oklahoma-based company in 2019, alleging it was being overbilled and said in Friday’s bankruptcy filing that the debt it is owed is disputed. The lawsuit is pending. A message seeking comment was left with Ackerman McQueen.
In the New York lawsuit, Ackerman McQueen was accused of aiding lavish spending by LaPierre and other NRA executives by picking up the tab and then sending a lump sum bill to the organization for “out-of-pocket expenses.”
“No financial filing can ever shroud the moral bankruptcy of Wayne LaPierre and his wife and their lap dogs on the NRA board,” said Bill Powers, an Ackerman McQueen spokesperson and former public affairs director for the NRA.
Court records also show more than $960,000 owed to Membership Marketing Partners LLC, a firm that lists its headquarters at the same address as the NRA. Another $200,000 is owed to Speedway Motorsports, the North Carolina-based company that owns and operates NASCAR tracks, according to the records.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott quickly welcomed the news, tweeting: “Welcome to Texas — a state that safeguards the 2nd Amendment.” The NRA said it has more than 400,000 members in Texas and plans to hold its annual convention in Houston later this year.