Global health professionals call for solidarity in combating the spread of this devastating disease and strive to achieve good health and well-being for all.
New COVID-19 vaccines are emerging around the world day by day. The COVID-19 threat is nothing new to the world as we’ve had a year in a deadly pandemic, but a new challenge has emerged in recent weeks as variants from the UK, Brazil and South Africa continue to dominate international headlines.
The global community asks itself what this will mean for transmission rates, vaccine efficacy, and more coming out of the difficult year 2020. It seems it is the constant spread of COVID-19, not the new variants of the virus that pose the biggest threat to recovery.
As the situation progresses, we are being discussed with experts to figure out what we know about vaccines and what we still need to understand and how the world should adapt to this ever-changing COVID-19 climate.
Development of Covid-19 Vaccines
RNA viruses are notorious for having variants because they are spoiled every time they copy themselves into a newly infected person. Professor of infectious diseases and SARS-CoV-2 expert at Johns Hopkins University Robert Bollinger told.
Bollinger said that there have been COVID-19 vaccines from the beginning, and that we’re hearing about them right now as the health community is making more genetic sequencing.
When a virus spreads, it has the opportunity to mutate with every transmission – essentially it just makes a copy of itself and can make mistakes in doing so.
If there is enough transmission over time (for example, more than 100 million cases), the virus will be lucky and a mutation will occur that gives it some sort of advantage. Bollinger said COVID-19’s UK vaccines seem to have this advantage being more contagious.
If we examine this logical approach, this also means that if the spread is to be controlled, the ability of the virus to mutate will also change, as the virus cannot continue to replicate itself.
Bollinger said in a recent Johns Hopkins Medicine article that a virus cannot spread effectively if all its victims die. And he pointed out that it was not advantageous to be more deadly. However, this does not mean that he is not worried.
“I knew it was going to happen, [but] I didn’t expect us to have such a hard time controlling this spread,” he said regarding the current state of the US.
Vaccines Are Less Effective – But Not Useless
“And we started seeing a suggestion that some vaccines mutate to a point where they can inhibit the immune response,” Bollinger said, adding that if the virus starts mutating, that would be a big problem as well. So much so that it started making people even more sick.
“We have to stop the transmission before these things happen, or at least slow it down so we have time,” he said. “I rely on vaccination programs… [These] are designed to be fine-tuned quickly.”
He also added that the world has decades of experience fighting respiratory viruses mutated by flu like this one.
Despite this positive news, variants from England, South Africa and Brazil seem to be spreading more easily. Therefore, even if they are not more fatal, it can lead to an increase in cases. This can lead to an increase in deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Research so far seems to show that antibodies created through the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines recognize these variants, but are also less effective.
Still, although vaccines seem less effective, they have not been rendered useless in any way. As Bollinger says, the industry is ready to adapt as needed.
The CDC points out that it is more important than ever for the world to adhere to public health mitigation strategies such as vaccination, social distancing, hand washing and quarantine when necessary, to end COVID-19.
Key to Fighting COVID-19
Scientists are working quickly to learn more about these vaccines. Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Barbara Rath, co-founder and president of the Vienna Vaccine Safety Initiative, said it was extremely important.
“Because they are very good at developing a surveillance system in South Africa,” said Rath. “But we don’t know what’s happening in Zimbabwe or Mozambique, for example,” he added. However, he drew attention to the importance of creating good practices in emerging environments.
There may be more variants yet to be discovered in the US for this purpose, Bollinger said.
While RNA viruses like COVID-19 always mutate, Rath explained that when they spread, they make themselves less viable. If multiple antivirals or measures are combined strategically, you can squeeze these viruses into a corner. It makes sense if you manage to turn them into a less advantageous version of themselves.
Virologists can simulate this in a laboratory. Essentially, they will test treatments that force the virus to weaken. For example; This is how antiretroviral treatments are combined to fight HIV.
This is the purpose of antiviral treatments. If a person has a virus and receives effective antiviral therapy (or various combinations), the virus is attacked. Infections end sooner, and the chance of the virus spreading to another person is less likely. Less virus means less opportunity for resistance development.
If we can develop treatments for those catching COVID-19, and especially antiviral treatments, these will not only cure the patient, but will make the emergence of new variants even more difficult.
Fighting COVID-19 Require Global Cooperation and Funding
Rath said the cure alone was not enough. Surveillance of variants should be part of a holistic approach that includes accurate diagnostic use, infection control, and vaccination efforts. All these measures working together will help contain the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately slow the emergence of new variants.
“This means everything we need to control the virus should basically be thrown into it,” said Rath, referring to vaccines developed around the world, medical treatments and surveillance systems.
But more than that, according to Rath, research needs to continue into how COVID-19 affects people at an individual level.
The virus expert says it is necessary to examine individual symptoms, immune responses, transmissibility, severity, and the body parts it affects. Evaluation of the virus in new people should become routine and worldwide comparable.
Rath said we need inexpensive and efficient tests and diagnostics that can understand what type of COVID-19 a person may have, as well as surveillance capacity, and when the right intervention, such as vaccination, is needed.
Vaccines are important, but so is the infrastructure required to test, monitor and decipher information about virus and transmission around the world. MRNA vaccines encourage Rath, who says he was very enthusiastic about them when the first regulatory approvals were released as this technology has been under construction for years.
He said COVID-19 vaccines were quickly approved in the eyes of the public, not because of a lack of diligence, but because they are a major priority in the world of developments in public health.
“Technology that makes setting vaccines much more efficient and much easier,” he said. “Technically it takes about 30 days to update an mRNA vaccine to a new virus variant, if needed.”
What we really know about combating COVID-19 strains?
While potentially less effective for beginners, we know vaccines still have an impact on these variants. We know that vaccine companies face the challenge of changing their vaccines or providing booster vaccines as needed.
We also know that in order to tackle these new variants, we must prevent the spread of COVID-19 by adhering to public health guidelines and investing in research.
As a result of, from past disease outbreaks, we know that international efforts are vital to eradicating disease. A vaccine can be a kind of magic wand. But if it acts as an integral part of a comprehensive global health plan, funding and collaboration is therefore essential in the midst of this global health crisis.
“You should always hold your finger with RNA viruses to make sure you understand when they start to change,” said Rath.