The vaccinations against Covid-19 are a race against time: There are new and more infectious variants of the coronavirus that are currently spreading worldwide. It is not yet clear to what extent the existing vaccines will also work against the new variants.
The vaccine seems to be at least effective against variant “B.1.1.7”, which was first discovered in Great Britain. However, there are initial indications that the current corona vaccines could be less effective against variant “B.1.351”, which was first discovered in South Africa.
“For this reason, as many people as possible should get vaccinated,” says Anthony Fauci, American immunologist. “Viruses don’t mutate unless they reproduce. If this can be prevented with a good vaccination campaign, the harmful effects of the mutations can be counteracted. ”
However, the start of vaccination is slow in some countries. This is why scientists are now concerned that vaccinations are not being given quickly enough to prevent new and potentially more dangerous gene variants of the coronavirus.
People have to become immune – ideally in childhood
The future of the coronavirus depends crucially on how well and quickly infections can be traced. The more people develop immunity – whether through vaccination or natural infection – the faster the virus will no longer exist at a pandemic level.
In a study, researchers from Emory University in the United States and Pennsylvania State University found that in the future, like a common cold, the coronavirus could infect people during their childhood. Almost all children would experience their first Covid 19 infection between the ages of three and five years. Almost every child would be infected by the age of 15 – and would be immune afterwards.
Since the course of the disease in children is much milder, vaccinations would be less in demand. In addition, children are immune to infection for a while after birth. “During the first six months of life or while you are breastfeeding, the children get their mother’s antibodies transmitted through the umbilical cord or later through breast milk. This means that children cannot get a primary infection in the first part of their life, ”said Jennie Lavine, study author.
The scientists of the study believe that new infections are milder and even strengthen immunity against other coronavirus variants at the same time.
Vaccines have to be further developed for the new variants
The vaccines stimulate the production of antibodies in the body so that in the event of infection in people who have been vaccinated, they can recognize the virus and destroy it before it spreads. Ideally, the vaccines would protect against all variants of the coronavirus for years to come.
However, scientists warn that the new variants are too different from the original virus and thus could possibly bypass the antibodies in the vaccines. If so, adapted vaccines would have to be developed again and again in order to be able to combat the new variants.
While the process wouldn’t be too difficult, people would need to keep getting vaccination boosts. “If we ever have to modify the vaccine, it wouldn’t be particularly troublesome. We could easily do it with our resources, ”says Fauci. It becomes more and more likely that people would have to receive vaccination boosts again and again – as with the annual flu vaccination – the longer the initial vaccinations continue.
A more deadly variant could make vaccinations against Corona routine
If people get vaccinated as quickly as possible and the capacity is ready, the spread of what may be a deadly variant could be stopped. “So that the course becomes milder and a vaccination is not necessary, the virus infections would have to change, for example by increasing their occurrence in childhood,” says Lavine.
There are already indications that Covid-19 is more deadly with the new variant from Great Britain. Patrick Vallance, research advisor to the UK government, says the new variant has up to 30 percent higher death rates in some age groups.
The good news: the vaccines seem to work against the new variants. “Everyone will get infected sooner or later,” says Lavine. “Let’s get an infection after a vaccination so that we don’t get really seriously ill. “
This article was translated from English and edited by Siw Inken Forke. You can find the original here.