Experts are warning that new variants of the virus could make vaccines useless within a year following a survey by the Peoples’ Vaccine Alliance.
They interviewed 77 epidemiologists, virologists and specialists in infectious diseases globally, and 66% believe that the first generation vaccines will be ineffective within a year as the virus will mutant.
Almost one fifth think this will happen within six months, one third said within nine months, and 18.2% believe this could take two years to happen.
Professor Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London and a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) who advises the government, said it is difficult to anticipate when this will happen.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Professor Openshaw said, “What we really find hard to anticipate is in what way it’s going to evolve over the next few months, and particularly over the next winter, and how secure we’re going to be in terms of the level of immunity that’s been built up not only through vaccination, but also through natural infection in different parts of the world.”
He was asked of the possibility of vaccines failing to protect against future mutations.
He said, “I think it’s terribly important to emphasise that the evidence that we’ve got is that the vaccines or immunity from previous infection is very efficient at protecting against severe disease.
“There is virtually no serious disease in those who are re-infected or who become ill after they’ve been vaccinated, so the vaccines are really, really good at preventing very serious illnesses, and that’s the most important news.
“But there is some concern that some of the variants may be able to replicate and pass from person to person, even in people who have been vaccinated with some of these initial vaccines that were developed based essentially on the Wuhan strain.
“So we need to move with all speed with the next generation of vaccines which are now based on what is now proven technology but are using the new sequences of the viruses that are emerging, which are of concern.”