Current Covid-19 vaccines will be rendered ineffective within a year if the virus is allowed to spread and mutate around the world, experts have warned.
Epidemiologists at some of the world’s leading academic institutions – including some Scottish universities – issued a stern warning today of the risk the world is taking by not ensuring that all countries have enough vaccines to protect people from Covid -19.
In a survey of 77 epidemiologists from 28 countries, conducted by The People’s Vaccine Alliance, two-thirds believed that within a year or less, the virus would mutate as the majority of first-generation vaccines were rendered ineffective and new or modified vaccines are required.
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Of those surveyed, almost a third gave a deadline of nine months or less. Less than one in eight said they believed mutations would never make current vaccines ineffective.
The UK has vaccinated more of its population than most countries.
The overwhelming majority (88%) said that persistent low vaccine coverage in many countries would make the emergence of vaccine-resistant mutations more likely.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 organizations including the African Alliance, Oxfam, Public Citizen and UNAIDS, warned that at current rates, it was likely that only 10% of people in the majority of poor countries would be vaccinated next year. .
Almost three-quarters of those surveyed – which included epidemiologists, virologists and infectious disease specialists from institutions such as Johns Hopkins, Yale, Imperial College, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of Cambridge , University of Edinburgh and University of Cape Town – said open sharing of technology and intellectual property could increase global immunization coverage.
The People’s Vaccine Alliance calls for the lifting of pharmaceutical monopolies and the sharing of technology to urgently increase vaccine supply.
People over 60 fear being “forgotten” as the Scottish government announces the launch of vaccines …
Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, said: “The more the virus circulates, the more likely it is that mutations and variants will emerge, which could render our current vaccines ineffective. At the same time, poor countries are left behind without vaccines and basic medical supplies like oxygen.
“As we’ve learned, viruses don’t care about borders. We need to immunize as many people as possible, all over the world, as quickly as possible. Why wait and watch instead of getting ahead? ”
Gregg Gonsalves, associate professor of epidemiology at Yale University, echoed the urgency to vaccinate globally.
He said, “With millions of people around the world infected with this virus, new mutations are occurring every day. Sometimes they find a niche that makes them more apt than their predecessors.
“These lucky variants could more efficiently transmit and potentially evade immune responses to previous strains. Unless we vaccinate the world, we are leaving the playing field open to more and more mutations, which could produce variants that could escape our current vaccines and require booster shots. to deal with it.
“We all have a stake in ensuring that everyone in the world, regardless of where they live, has access to Covid-19 vaccines. The virus doesn’t respect borders, and new variants somewhere on the planet mean none of us are safe. ”
According to the Alliance, the survey shows that it is imperative for the safety of all citizens of all countries that people in developing countries be vaccinated as soon as possible. He warned that failure to address global vaccine inequality increases the risk of new mutations.
Earlier this month, a group of richer countries blocked a proposal to waive intellectual property rights to Covid-19 vaccines. The People’s Vaccine Alliance is urging them to reconsider resuming talks at the World Trade Organization next month.
Quarraisha Abdool Karim, Associate Scientific Director of CAPRISA and Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Columbia University, said: “As nations begin to expand their immunization programs, we are once again reminded of our interdependence.
“On the other hand, there are huge benefits for everyone in having more equitable access to available vaccine doses and in achieving collective immunity earlier in the world.
The Alliance also calls on all pharmaceutical companies working on Covid-19 vaccines to openly share their technology and intellectual property through the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 technology access pool, in order to ” accelerate and accelerate the production and deployment of vaccines for all countries. ”
Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Officer, said: “In many wealthy countries, people who have been vaccinated are starting to feel safer, but unless all nations are vaccinated there is a huge risk that the protection offered by vaccines is destroyed by new mutations.
“This survey highlights that we need a popular vaccine, not only to protect people in the world’s poorest countries, but also to ensure that people around the world who have already been vaccinated are no longer being vaccinated. danger.”
Current vaccines appear to be at least partially effective against existing mutations, but where new vaccines are needed, it will take several months before they are approved for use and even longer to start rolling out.
In the meantime, lockdowns and travel bans will continue to be the primary protections against rising infections and deaths. New vaccine recipes will also be subject to the same pharmaceutical monopolies, further restricting access for the rest of the world.
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