SARS-CoV-2 might evolve in a new variant, shows an analysis by British academics. The UK Government’s official scientific advisory group believes that the current vaccine won’t work on a new virus variant. Please note that this research is purely theoretical at the moment.
These types of studies are released to “provided the government with rapid evidence during an emergency.” The document published on Friday shows that new variants will keep emerging if the COVID-19 virus is not entirely eradicated.
“A gradual or punctuated accumulation of antigenic variation that eventually leads to current vaccine failure. Worst case is that this drift combines with significant antigenic sin (vaccination resulting in an immune response that is dominated by antibodies to previously experienced viruses/vaccines) meaning that it becomes difficult to revaccinate to induce antibodies to the new strains,” states the document.
By reducing the COVID-19 transmission, there will be fewer chances of a new virus variant. Therefore, scientists advise continuing with the immunization of the population. However, the current vaccine only prevents hospital admission and disease. The UK researchers also push for a new study on a more efficient vaccine.
“Whilst we feel that current vaccines are excellent for reducing the risk of hospital admission and disease, we propose that research be focused on vaccines that also induce high and durable levels of mucosal immunity in order to reduce infection of and transmission from vaccinated individuals. This could also reduce the possibility of variant selection in vaccinated individuals.”
Although this is only a could-be scenario, it’s worth studying a new vaccine version that could prevent or stop a possible variant escape. According to the document, “over the past few months, several variants have emerged which show reduced susceptibility to vaccine-acquired immunity, though none appears to escape entirely.”
Most COVID-19 variants emerged before the vaccination campaigns. Therefore there are more chances of a new transmissible variant to evade since people worldwide get vaccinated. This is not the first time we hear about this possible scenario. The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said that “the combination of high prevalence and high levels of vaccination creates the conditions in which an immune escape variant is most likely to emerge.” However, “the extent of vaccine escape is difficult to predict,” said the scientists.