Ministers are being pressured to announce the emergency plans drawn up to deal with them COVID variant of the future it evades the current vaccines, amid warnings from scientific advisors that such a result could reverse the fight against the pandemic by a year or more.
Recent articles by the government’s Scientific Advisory Group on emergencies (SAGE) suggested that the advent of a vaccine avoiding alternative is a “realistic possibility”. SAGE has supported ongoing work on new vaccines that reduce infection and transmission more than existing vaccines, the creation of more vaccine production facilities in the UK, and laboratory studies to predict the evolution of variants.
With the emergence of a new variable that is seen as one of the main risks that could exacerbate the crisis again, leading scientific figures have highlighted the risks. Prof Graham Medley, a member of the Sage and leader of the government’s COVID modelling group, said it was “obviously something that planners and scientists should take seriously, because it would deter us”.
“It does not differ much from the planning to be made between epidemics – a new species that was able to significantly outwit immunity would be essentially a new virus, ” he said.
“The advantage would be that we know that we can produce vaccines against this virus-and relatively quickly. The downside is that we will be back in the same position as a year ago, depending on how much the current immunity affects the new alternative. We hope that the development is slow, so that new variants emerge that are only marginally elusive and not a single big leap.”
Dr. Mark Pagolin, of Imperial College’s Covid-19 Response Team and member of the government’s SPI-M modelling group, said blocking input variables concerns about “moderate to high immune escape properties would be critical, as they could lead to future waves of orders of magnitude larger than those tested so far.”