Current Covid Vaccines Unlikely to Protect against New Variants in Future, Says SAGE

SAGE has laid the seedbed for more lockdowns in the future, warning that current Covid vaccines are unlikely to protect against new variants of the ever-evolving virus, the eradication of which is “extremely unlikely”. Sky News has the story.

[In a paper published on Friday, SAGE scientists] warn that eventually it is likely “current vaccines will fail to protect against transmission, infection, or even against disease caused by newer variants”.

The document, which considers the long-term plan for Covid jabs, says that “loss of vaccine effectiveness will result in further economic and social costs” and “a solution is to update vaccines to keep pace with virus evolution”.

The scientists add that “we should also consider whether future vaccination policy will aim to immunise the whole population or only those at risk from severe disease”.

The document, which was produced by SAGE’s vaccines update subgroup on May 4th, says current Covid jabs are based on the “Wuhan-like virus” that emerged in China in 2019.

Further doses of those vaccines might maintain protection into the winter of 2021/22 “but potentially less so for individuals with a less robust immune response”, it states.

The scientists say “worryingly” there is increasing evidence that Covid vaccines are less effective at protecting against infections and mild disease caused by the South African variant of the virus, compared to the Kent variant.

Several manufacturers have already started to produce updated vaccines for trials based on the South African variant instead of the virus originally identified in Wuhan, according to SAGE.

“If another variant (e.g. B.1.617 from India) predominated or co-circulated with B.1.1.7 (Kent variant) in the U.K., it is not obvious at the moment which variant based vaccine would most effectively cross protect,” SAGE said.

In February, some of the advisors on SAGE said that Britain could be trapped in lockdown cycles for “several years” because of the emergence of new Covid variants. SAGE member Professor Sir Ian Boyd believes that we could be stuck in a pattern of “control and release for a long time to come”.

The Sky News report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Data published by Public Health England suggests that two doses of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines are 80% effective in preventing infection from the Indian variant, seemingly contradicting the warning issued by SAGE. That’s only 7% less effective than the vaccines are against the Kent variant. The Telegraph has more.

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