Mutation in the virus could make current COVID-19 vaccines ineffective in less than a year said some of the world’s leading epidemiologists in a new survey conducted by The People’s Vaccine Alliance and published in a press release Tuesday by OXFAM International.
People’s Vaccine Alliance surveyed 77 epidemiologists from 28 countries who shared their expertise on several questions pertaining to the vaccine. One of those was whether the current vaccine would be effective in a year if the virus mutates and would modifications to the first generation of vaccines need to be made in order to keep people protected against new strains of the virus.
The overwhelming response from two-thirds of those participating was “yes,” that this would be the case. A third gave the timeframe of up to nine months. However, one in eight said they believed the vaccine would never become ineffective.
The majority of epidemiologists (88.3%) said that “persistent low rates of coverage” – meaning low numbers of vaccinations will make mutations of the virus a more likely scenario. This could be worse in communities where research has shown lower rates of vaccination.
In the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Black and brown communities. Early assumptions were that Black Americans’ historical mistrust in medical institutions deterred many from considering vaccination. That appears to be changing.
In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey conducted earlier this month, 73% of Black people said they have gotten or planned to get the vaccine. That is an increase compared to just 42% in a November Pew Research Center survey.
The biggest problem for Black people now is that poor access to the vaccine, particularly in the rural south, leaves low levels of vaccinated individuals. As the survey said, low levels of vaccinations are where mutations foster and spread, thus creating a scenario that could possibly make the vaccine ineffective.
The People Vaccine Alliance survey also pointed to the importance of looking at COVID-19 as a world problem and countries like the US should remain cautious, Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager, pointed out.
“In many rich nations, vaccinated people are starting to feel safer, but unless we vaccinate all nations, there is a huge risk that the protection offered by vaccines will be shattered by fresh mutations,” she said.