COVID-19 Variants Trigger Rethink, Could Take 7 Years to End Pandemic

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Scientists say that, as variants emerge, the current vaccine strategy needs to be reevaluated. Vaccines show signs of faltering against the developing variants, and a new calculation predicts 7 years to end the pandemic.

New vaccine goal: prevent death, not infections

In the face of vaccines that may prove less effective against preventing the emerging COVID-19 variants, such as those in the UK and South Africa, scientists are suggesting that the importance of the vaccine be centered around protecting the vulnerable from hospitalization and death, rather than preventing infection altogether.

“We probably need to switch to protecting the vulnerable with the best vaccines we have,” said Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the University of Cambridge. “Although they don’t stop infection, they probably do stop you dying.”

South Africa has announced it is halting its vaccination rollout amid faltering effectiveness of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against the so-called South African variant. South Africa also followed the results of two other vaccines, from Novavax and Janssen, in which effectiveness seems to have been reduced to about 60 percent.

However, other vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) appear to offer protection against the most severe disease, hospitalization, and death, although those findings are based on lab studies, the Guardian reported.

Pandemic may take 7 years to end, new calculation finds

According to Bloomberg, they have built the largest database of tracking COVID-19 vaccinations around the world. On February 4, Bloomberg said they have tracked 119 million doses administered worldwide.

Doctor Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert for the United States, suggested it will take until 70% to 85% of the population has been vaccinated for things to begin to return to normal.

In the United States, the current vaccination rate is 1,339,525 doses per day on average, according to Bloomberg. At this rate, Bloomberg calculates, it will require 11 months for 75 percent of the population in the US to be vaccinated with a two-dose vaccine.

However, in general, the more wealthy Western countries are progressing with vaccinations faster than the rest of the globe. Across the world, poorer countries are being vaccinated less rapidly.

On a global level, according to Bloomberg’s calculations, at the current pace, it will take seven years until 75 percent of the world’s population can be vaccinated.

South Africa halts vaccine rollout after shot falters against variant, more US cases identified

One of the more troubling variant of COVID-19 is the one circulating in South Africa. The country’s minister of health said Sunday that South Africa is halting its rollout of the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford Covid-19 vaccine, following a new analysis which suggested that the injection “provides minimal protection” against mild disease caused by the variant, Stat News reported.

South Africa plans to institute a new process for studying vaccines in a research phase to try and determine that each vaccine reduces Covid hospitalizations despite the widespread new variant in the country. The temporary halt is deemed necessary to establish enough clinical efficacy information.

The variant, known as B.1.351, was first seen in South Africa and has since spread to other countries. On Friday, officials from the Virginia Department of Health reported that the first case of the SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.351 was identified in a sample taken from an adult resident of eastern Virginia, NBC reported.

A case was also reported in South Carolina by the CDC on January 28.

U.K. COVID-19 variant is spreading rapidly through US, study finds

A COVID-19 variant known as the UK variant, and officially known as as B.1.1.7, is spreading rapidly through the United States, doubling its prevalence every week and a half, according to new research released on Sunday, the Washington Post reported.

The variant has caused much of the UK to shut down.

According to a forecast study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it anticipates the variant becoming dominant COVID-19 infection in the United States by late March.

While it is known that the variant is more contagious than earlier forms of COVID-19, it is unknown as yet whether it is more lethal. Typically, viruses survive by becoming more contagious and less lethal. When they become more lethal, they kill the host, and thus eradicate themselves.

As of last week, Florida led the nation with the most cases of the variant, followed by California.