The UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has suggested that an emerging variant of the coronavirus that evades vaccines is a “realistic possibility”. Scientists have said that new vaccines need to be produced that would reduce infection and transmission from the new variants that could emerge in the coming months. The UK has thus decided upon the creation of more vaccine-production facilities that can predict the evolution of coronavirus variants.
Sage scientist Graham Medley speaking to the Guardian said it was “clearly something that the planners and scientists should take very seriously as it would put us back a long way”.
He added: “It is not that different to the planning that needs to be done between pandemics, a new variant that was able to overcome immunity significantly would be essentially a new virus.
“The advantage would be that we know we can generate vaccines against this virus – and relatively quickly.
“The disadvantage is that we would be back to the same situation we were in a year ago, depending on how much impact current immunity had against a new variant.
“Hopefully, evolution is slow, so that new variants arise that are only marginally evasive rather than one big jump.”
Doctor Marc Baguelin, from Imperial College’s Covid-19 response team, said that preventing the importation of coronavirus variants of concern with “moderate to high immune-escape properties would be critical” to the UK’s pandemic response.
He added: “These variants could lead to future waves orders of magnitude larger than the ones experienced so far”.
“It is unlikely that such a new virus evades entirely all immunity from past infection or vaccines.
Also speaking to the Guardian Stephen Reicher, professor of psychology at the University of St Andrews, said: “It very much makes sense to be prepared.
“Scotland is setting up its standing committee on pandemics.
“It will be interesting to see what emerges on a UK level.
“In the longer term we need a systematic inquiry into what went wrong (and right) so we are prepared and also so that we can institute systemic changes to protect us.
“The pandemic has been like a barium meal which has exposed so many deficiencies in our society.
“We can no longer pretend we are not aware of them.
“This has been a deafening wake-up call. Let’s make sure we don’t press the snooze button.”
Daily coronavirus cases in the UK have hovered around the 30,000 mark in the last month.