Scientific advisers to the British government have raised the prospect of fighting a forever war against the coronavirus, saying that eradicating the virus “would be unlikely.” And they warn “there will always be variations.”
They are hopeful that the virus may evolve in such a way that it causes “much less severe disease”, but they caution that this is unlikely to happen for some time. Meanwhile preventive measures and restrictions will be needed because there is a “realistic possibility” that vaccine-resistant variants will emerge.
And, chilling, in a report released last week by Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, otherwise known as SAGE, scientists do not discount the possibility of a new variant arising with the death of MERS, a Other coronaviruses that have a case fatality rate of 35%.
report silently released
The report on the potential long-term evolution of the virus was released late Friday, and opposition politicians in Britain have complained that it was slyly fired without fanfare to try to avoid publicity by the government. Faith cannot be undermined. British pandemic restrictions and the opening of the country’s borders to travelers from the United States and the European Union.
“This report should have sent shock waves through the UK government,” Scottish Nationalist MP and deputy chairman of an all-party parliamentary group on the pandemic, Philip Whitford, told local reporters.
Instead it was quietly suppressed during the parliamentary recess amid a flurry of reports. The recommendations and comments made by SAGE bring home the simple reality – that we have not ‘defeated’ this virus yet,” said Whitford, a qualified surgeon.
In the paper, the scientists outline the possibility that a newer version will outlive current vaccines, saying that is to be “almost certain”. The biggest fear of SAGE is “antigenic drift,” small changes in a virus’s genes that can cause changes in its surface proteins. Most of the vaccines currently in use target the surface proteins of the coronavirus. Scientists are also concerned about the possibility of recombination of variants to become more infectious.
Clinical epidemiologist Deepti Gurdasani says the SAGE report “makes it clear that the virus is unlikely to become less virulent in the short term.” She tweeted: “So to all those who suggest that we should live with this, and this seasonal coronavirus will become more benign, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon.”
The report has drawn the attention of governments in Europe, and officials in Berlin say it played into a decision announced on Monday by the German government that people considered potentially vulnerable to developing COVID-19 was to offer a vaccine booster jab, the disease the coronavirus can trigger.
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Health officials say the decision to give a third dose is evidence that the effectiveness of two doses diminishes over time.
Germany will begin giving Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna Vaccine boosters next month to people over the age of 60, caring residents and people with compromised immune systems. In addition, a booster shot will be offered to Germans receiving the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, whose efficacy against the delta variant is believed to be weak.
“We will be prepared for the fall,” said Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holetsch. Speaking on behalf of the health ministers of 18 states of the country, he said, “I believe that the booster shot is important and correct only on the basis of prevention.”
Israel, France and Hungary are already giving booster shots to some people, and Britain will offer booster jabs next month as well. British health officials say they want to maximize protection for the elderly and vulnerable ahead of the country’s winter season, when other seasonal respiratory viruses rise. Officials in Rome and Madrid have said Italy and Spain will also provide additional jabs at the end of the year.
Britain will offer COVID-19 booster shots this fall
The nation is also offering incentives to persuade young adults to get vaccinated.
In the United States, officials are considering a request by vaccine-maker Pfizer to authorize booster shots, but have so far withheld permission. But the Biden administration has ordered 200 million more Pfizer vaccines, a move seen by observers as a preparation for a regimen of booster shots.
Speaking to broadcaster CNCB, Scott Gottlieb, former head of the US Federal Drug Administration, said he believes vaccine booster shots will be given to older people and people with compromised immune systems in the US from next month. “I think we are on a slow path here,” he said.
But some are criticizing the move by rich countries to start offering booster shots, saying the priority should be to poor countries, which are lagging behind vaccinations because of scarce supplies. This is not only an ethical issue but a practical issue: vaccine-resistant forms are more likely to emerge as a result of widespread infection in poor and developing countries, he says.
“Vaccine resources need to be shared with the world to help end this COVID-19 pandemic,” NGO Doctors Without Borders tweeted on Monday.