Expert issues confronting ‘mutant’ warning about virus vaccine

Tom Flanagan
·News Reporter
·3-min read

As the world continues to raise its hopes with the news of more and more vaccine trials proving successful, an infectious disease expert has warned a coronavirus vaccine will be far from a panacea.

Dr Gifty Immanuel, an infectious disease specialist from India told a Blavatnik School of Government briefing at the University of Oxford COVID-19 will likely “fight back” in a global push to achieve widespread immunisation.

He said the virus could produce further virulent strains by creating “vaccine escape mutants”, according to news.com.au.

He pointed to the recent mink culling in Denmark as an example of a new strain, which he said could “completely destroy” the work done so far.

Fears of a new strain have been raised first hand here in Australia this week after an outbreak in Adelaide forced health authorities to send South Australia into a stringent six-day lockdown.

The world has found hope in recent vaccine trials. Source: Getty
The world has found hope in recent vaccine trials. Source: Getty

Chief Health Officer Nicola Spurrier raised concerns of a new strain where infected people were infectious within 24 hours. Premier Steven Marshall called it “particularly sneaky”.

Russian health authorities reported earlier this week that the virus was mutating in Siberia.

Questions raised over how effective Covid vaccine will be

Dr Michael S Saag at the University of Alabama’s School of Medicine cast doubt over how effective a vaccine will be for a “particularly evil” virus.

“Strange as it seems, our bodies need time to learn how to fight this disease,” he wrote for The Washington Post.

And while he praised the recent breakthroughs from pharmaceutical companies, he warned “we still have much to learn” and didn’t expect a vaccine to be approved for widespread global use for at least 10 months.

He urged people not to pin their hopes on a vaccine, and warned against complacency in prevention measures such as mask wearing, hygiene and social distancing.

‘Encouraging’ vaccine breakthrough for elderly

AstraZeneca and Oxford University's potential COVID-19 vaccine produced a strong immune response in older adults, data published on Thursday showed, with researchers expecting to release late-stage trial results by Christmas.

The data, reported in part last month but published in full in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday, suggest that those aged over 70, who are at higher risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19, could build robust immunity.

Australians have enjoyed relative freedom during the pandemic. Source: Getty
Australians have enjoyed relative freedom during the pandemic. Source: Getty

"The robust antibody and T-cell responses seen in older people in our study are encouraging," said Maheshi Ramasamy, a consultant and co-lead investigator at the Oxford Vaccine Group.

"We hope that this means our vaccine will help to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society but further research will be needed before we can be sure."

Late-stage, or Phase III, trials are ongoing to confirm the findings, researchers said, and to test whether the vaccine protects against infection with SARS-CoV-2 in a broad range of people, including people with underlying health conditions.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine candidate, called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, had been among the frontrunners in global efforts to develop shots to protect against infection with the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2.

But rival drug makers Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna have in the past 10 days edged ahead, releasing data from late-stage Covid-19 vaccine trials that shows more than 90 per cent efficacy.

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with Reuters