Amid growing concerns about the effectiveness of vaccines against the Beta variant of the coronavirus, the UK will require all travelers from France — including those who are fully vaccinated — to isolate for 10 days when they return to England and Wales.
The Beta variant, first identified in South Africa, is spreading in France, though mostly in the Indian Ocean territories of Reunion and Mayotte, the BBC reported.
Circulation of the variant in mainland France is low, just 3.4 percent of total cases in June, the Independent reported.
CDC data shows the Beta variant accounts for just 0.2 percent of cases in the U.S.
The Beta variant is thought to be less infectious than the Delta variant — the strain first seen in India that now accounts for 31% of cases in the US. “Where it has an advantage is that it is able to escape the immune response to a better extent,” Professor John Edmunds of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told the BBC.
Growing immunity to other variants creates better conditions for the Beta variant to get an advantage, Edmunds said. “There is some good evidence from South Africa that it can evade the immune response generated by the AstraZeneca vaccine more efficiently.”
The Beta variant may also be deadlier than other strains, Reuters reported. Researchers in South Africa found that people infected in the wave in that country where Beta was dominant were more likely to require hospitalization. Hospitalized COVID-19 patients during that time had a 31 percent greater chance of death.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is the most widely used in Britain but is not yet approved in the U.S. Some studies have found that the Moderna and Pfizer shots, which use a different scientific approach, are effective more than 94 percent of the time against the variants.