People wearing protective masks wait for a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination at a vaccination center in Mumbai, India on April 26, 2021.
Niharika Kulkarni | Reuters
LONDON – New variants of Covid-19 are likely to emerge until the entire world is vaccinated against the virus, experts warn, saying the vaccine exchange is more than an altruistic act, but a pragmatic act.
“Until vaccinations are done all over the world, and not just in the wealthy Western countries, I think we will remain in danger of new options, and some of them may be more dangerous than omicron,” – -r Andrew Friedman, Reader on Infectious Diseases. at Cardiff University School of Medicine, CNBC told CNBC on Thursday.
Friedman noted that viruses “soften” as they evolve, but warned that this is “not always the case.”
“It is possible that future options will be even more contagious, they may be milder, but we cannot say that with certainty.”
To date, 58.6% of the world’s population has received at least one dose of Covid vaccine, with 9.28 billion doses administered worldwide, according to Our World in Data.
Most adults are currently fully vaccinated against Covid in wealthy, predominantly Western countries such as Europe or the United States, and in many of these countries the vaccine is being extended to young teens and even young children.
But in low-income countries, only 8.5% of people received at least one dose of the vaccine, as our world shows in the data.
Since the introduction of the vaccine, the World Health Organization has repeatedly called on wealthier countries to donate surplus vaccines to the Covax Initiative, an international program aimed at ensuring fairer global access to vaccines.
The mantra “No one is safe if not everyone is safe” is often heard from WHO and other experts who say the pandemic will not end until everyone is protected.
“I cannot stress enough that there is no escape from this logic,” Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, told CNBC.
“This is not altruism or help or anything like that, this is a global strategy of avoiding something from which we all suffer together. If we can’t separate vaccines and produce enough vaccines for everyone, the next option is not far off. “
Covid vaccines have been proven to significantly protect people from severe infection, hospitalization and death, so in addition to the fact that wider vaccination coverage could potentially save millions of lives, they can also help prevent new variants from emerging: The large number of unvaccinated people allows the virus to spread much more easily and mutate at the same time.
Gavi, the vaccine alliance that is part of the Covax scheme, says the initiative “is necessary because without it there is a real risk that most people in the world will be left without protection from SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19). and this will ensure that the virus and its effects are not weakened. “
Like all viruses, the coronavirus, which first appeared in China in late 2019, has continued to mutate and evolve throughout the pandemic. Certain mutations have proven to be more effective in spreading the virus. Variants such as the “alpha” strain, first discovered in the UK in September 2020 and named by the WHO, have spread around the world, usurping previous strains.
Then the “delta variant” which was discovered in India in October 2020 supplanted the alpha variant, and now we are fighting the “omicron”: a much more transmissible variant than delta, but a strain that seems to cause less serious diseases, according to More and more studies are being conducted in a short timeframe since the introduction of the omicron in southern Africa in November 2021.
Some countries have already done, and others are considering whether to make vaccination mandatory, but this raises acute ethical dilemmas such as the ethics of vaccinating young children (who, fortunately, rarely seriously suffer from Covid disease) to protect older people, more vulnerable citizens.
No Covid vaccine is 100% effective either, and those vaccinated can still get infected and pass the infection on to others, although vaccination reduces this risk.
However, an increasing number of countries have made or will make Covid vaccination mandatory for some workers, such as nurses and nursing home staff, while others are making it mandatory for certain age groups considered more at risk; Greece has introduced compulsory vaccinations for people over 60, while Italy made mandatory vaccinations for everyone over 50 on Wednesday.… Needless to say, forced gunfire is a controversial topic and has generated protests from several quarters.
Friedman said that it was preferable to encourage and educate people to vaccinate than to prescribe vaccinations, but still “it is desirable to immunize as many people as possible.”