Can current vaccines keep up with the prevailing Covid variants? By Dushan Madu
Over a year into the COVID 19 pandemic, billions of people have not been vaccinated. The spread of the Delta variants is the main reason for the rising cases. And the WHO is investigating over 15 further variants around the world. This pandemic is far from over. Aloc Ja and Natasha Loader, the health policy editor, are the hosts of the economist’s podcast. And they have spent the last 18 months reporting on COVID-19 on the global vaccination race and the spread of new variants of the virus. According to their findings relating to the overall pandemic situation, many areas require clarification at a broader level. How do Covid-19 variants and mutations emerge? When a virus replicates, there is a greater possibility of creating a mutation. Therefore, when more replicates, there are more possibilities for emerging new variants. And last year, Covid didn’t seem to show its changing nature for quite a long time, and then, towards the end of the year, it started to make these massive changes. The virus acquired twenty or more mutations. And the question for us is, how did this happen? It has been proved that the virus spends some time inside the body of an immune suppressed person, whose infection has lingered within, and many mutations have occurred. Rather than spreading between people, these mutants spread throughout one place. And it could be seen that this happens in hospitals. It’s not confirmed the speculation, but a patient in a hospital receives relevant immunosuppressants. In case someone has a Covid infection, it has been proved that the person accumulates a truckload of mutations there. This is an evolution in action. We should start to get on top of the virus. Through random mutations, the virus finds its way to survival. Whatever mechanism we find to stop its spread, the Covid virus has its self-projected journey. Generally, viruses are not as deadly as we think, and they have no consciousness. Whatsoever, they want to reproduce a lot and want to keep spreading. If a particular virus is killed quickly, then it fails its spread much longer. And this is one of the reasons why the original SARS didn’t have that much of a spreading nature considering the speedy spreading pace of SARS-CoV-2. Here, the core idea is, if a particular virus has a more transmissible nature and related deadly characteristics, it means more people could be infected. Therefore, ultimately, the statistics, in particular, denote more deaths. This is why we should be deliberately concerned about the behaviour of variants and mutations. Could the virus mutate in a way to make vaccines ineffective? Yes, most probably. In theory, it could happen when time goes on. We still see that the prevailing vaccines are still protecting against hospitalizations, cases and deaths. We should start to feel a little bit more confident. And if you think about it in 18 months, the worst variant that had come up was the South African variant that seemed to knock back vaccine efficacy, whereas the other variants did a lot less. And when time passes by, we should feel more confident. Maybe the virus doesn’t have many molecular tricks or genetic tricks. But none of the medical experts predicts or gives any assurance relating to the existence of the Covid pandemic. But, in case the prevailing situation becomes worse or more patients emerge, booster shots would work to a greater extent. But still, the WHO has not officially granted permission to go for booster shots. Current vaccines are beating the prevailing variants. But on the flip side, the variants are raging through unvaccinated people and, most of the world is still unvaccinated. If the vaccination process is slow, the virus could get into more people and multiply and make more and more people sick. To fight against future mutations, what we need is more innovations and more vaccines. And, of course, I don’t think that we’re going to be in a situation where we’re as vulnerable to the virus as we were in March 2020, when there were no vaccines or treatments. Everyone had to sort of fit into their home all the time, using certain ayurvedic precautions. What will humankind learn from this global disaster? I hope we learn to try and understand and predict where these sorts of threats to the natural world come from; My hunch is that this could be a result of the wrongdoings of humans. Scientists have been warning for decades that this sort of thing would happen, and even in their wildest speculations, they didn’t think it’d be as bad as this. Still, rational thinking is scarce in the world. It’s unpredictable whether this could be a “Great reset”. Mother nature may be showing us the early stage of the signs relating to the destruction of human existence. We have to question whether we have given time to breathe to nature throughout our existence.