So far, researchers have assumed that in order to achieve herd immunity in the case of corona, an infection or vaccination rate of around 70 percent is necessary. Since new virus variants such as P.1 are currently gaining acceptance worldwide, this value seems rather unrealistic. As a current study by the epidemiologist Nuno Faria from Imperial College London shows, the particularly contagious mutant P.1 is also spreading among formerly infected people.
Variant P.1, which appeared for the first time in November, has so far been detected in 24 countries worldwide. In Germany they were first found in Hesse at the end of January. Faria and his team assume that the transmission rate of the variant is about twice as high as that of the old virus. According to their estimates, the factor is 1.4 to 2.2 – but this data has not yet been verified by other experts in the context of a publication.
B.1.1.7 can perhaps contain the further spread of P.1
It is worrying that P.1 is also transmitted to formerly infected people. Laboratory studies at the University of São Paulo showed that the antibodies, which should build up a protective immune response after an initial infection, provided less protection against the variant. Faria sums this up in numbers: Of 100 people who have already been infected with the coronavirus, 61 will be infected again with P.1.
The microbiologist and public health expert from the University of Cambridge, Sharon Peacock, hopes that the “British” variant B.1.1.7 may be able to curb the further spread of P.1. Although P.1 has already appeared in Great Britain, the variant does not seem to be able to prevail against the domestic and possibly even more contagious mutant. This would be a good thing: All vaccines are effective against B.1.1.7. But P.1 does not seem to compete with variant B.1.351, which first appeared in South Africa.
The vaccines from AstraZeneca, Biontech and Moderna have not yet been tested for their effectiveness against P.1. However, experts assume that the protective effect of the vaccines is greater than the natural immunity after infection. Therefore, they are currently trying to adapt their vaccines to the variants. A lot of things may still be uncertain, but one thing is certain: with 100 million infections currently in place, there will certainly be further genetic changes.