The planet could be a year or less before first-generation Covid-19 vaccines are ineffective and modified formulations are needed, according to a survey of epidemiologists, virologists and infectious disease specialists.
Scientists have long emphasized that a global vaccination effort is needed to successfully neutralize the threat of Covid-19. This is due to the threat of variations of the virus, some more transmissible, deadly and less susceptible to vaccines, which are emerging and leaking.
The grim forecast of one year or less comes from two-thirds of those surveyed, according to the People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of organizations that includes Amnesty International, Oxfam and UNAIDS, which conducted the survey of 77 scientists from 28 countries. Almost a third of those surveyed indicated that the timeframe was probably nine months or less.
Persistent low vaccine coverage in many countries would make vaccine-resistant mutations more likely, said 88% of respondents, who work at illustrious institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Yale, Imperial College, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. and the University of Edinburgh.
“New mutations emerge every day. Sometimes they find a niche that makes them fitter than their predecessors. These lucky variants could be transmitted more efficiently and potentially evade immune responses to older strains, ”Gregg Gonsalves, associate professor of epidemiology at Yale University, said in a statement.
“Unless we vaccinate the world, we leave the playing field open to more and more mutations, which could produce variants that could evade our current vaccines and require booster shots to deal with them.”
The current crop of vaccines that have received emergency authorizations in different parts of the world is a combination of old and new technologies.
Of particular interest is the mRNA approach, employed by the companies Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna, which can be rapidly modified (in weeks or months) to accommodate new variants; however, manufacturing problems are always a potential problem.
But more importantly, they are unlikely to be affordable for poorer countries, given that this set of vaccines is much more expensive and has comparatively onerous temperature storage requirements.
Meanwhile, resource-rich countries like the UK and the US have administered at least one dose of vaccine to more than a quarter of their population and secured hundreds of millions of supplies. By contrast, nations such as South Africa and Thailand have not even managed to get shot in the arms of 1% of their populations. Some countries have not yet administered their first dose.
Covax, the global coalition of vaccine initiatives aimed at countering so-called vaccine nationalism, hopes to supply at least 27% of the population in lower-income countries with vaccines in 2021.
“The urgency we see in rich nations to vaccinate their populations, targeting all adults for the summer, is simply not reflected globally. Instead, we have Covax targeting maybe 27% by the end of the year, if we can possibly handle it, that’s just not good enough, “said Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam and president of the People’s Vaccine Alliance. , which is asking Covid-19 vaccine developers to openly share their technology and intellectual property to boost production.
“Where is the ambitious global goal? A goal that science tells us is necessary? I think that’s the key point – we just don’t see the ambition that would go with it, the widespread recognition that limited vaccination is quite dangerous. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism