Emerging strains of coronavirus may be stronger than existing vaccines.
Scientists believe that the option in which new coronavirus strains will be stronger than the COVID-19 vaccine is a “real possibility.” Scientific consultants warn that such an outcome could set the battle against the pandemic back a year or even further.
Recent documents prepared in the UK by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergency Situations (SAGE) suggest that the emergence of a new variant that is not afraid of the vaccine is a “real possibility.”
According to The Guardian, SAGE members supported the continuation of work on new vaccines that reduce infection and transmission to a greater extent than current vaccinations and also supported conducting laboratory studies to predict the evolution of coronavirus variants.
With the emergence of a new variant of COVID-19, which is considered as one of the main dangers that can exacerbate the crisis again, prominent scientists have emphasized the risks. Professor Graham Medley, a member of SAGE and head of the government’s COVID modeling group, said this is “clearly something that planners and scientists should take very seriously, as it will take us back a long way.”
“This is not much different from the planning that needs to be carried out between pandemics – a new variant that could significantly overcome immunity will essentially become a new virus,” says Professor Medley. – The advantage is that we know that we can create vaccines against this virus and relatively quickly. The disadvantage is that we will return to the same situation we were in a year ago, depending on how much the current immunity has affected the new option. Let’s hope that evolution will go slowly so that new options arise that can evade the vaccine only partially, and not in one big leap.”
Dr. Marc Baguelin, from Imperial College’s COVID-19 response team and a member of the government’s SPI-M modeling team, says that preventing the importation of worrying variants with “moderate or high immune escape properties will be crucial, as this could lead to future waves orders of magnitude larger than those that have been so far.”
“It is unlikely that such a new virus will completely escape immunity from past infections or vaccines,” the expert said. “Some immunity should be preserved, at least in the most severe outcomes, such as death or hospitalization. Most likely, we will be able to update existing vaccines by including an emerging strain in them. But this will take months and means that we may have to re-introduce restrictions if there is a significant risk to public health. The number of restrictions will be a political decision and should be proportional to how much this virus can avoid the effects of current vaccines.”
Sources in the British government reported that Public Health England and other organizations are monitoring the situation with the help of rapid observation and sequencing of the virus genome. A representative of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection said that the vaccination program had built a “wall of protection”: “We are committed to protecting progress in vaccine deployment, and our world-leading genomics capabilities are at the forefront of global efforts to stay ahead of the options: more than half a million samples have been sequenced to date.”