A prominent British scientist said a vaccine that stops the transmission of Covid must now be a top priority for the pharmaceutical industry – global circulation

It is questionable to what extent current Covid-19 vaccines will be used because they have largely done their job of preventing mass deaths, and scientists should focus on developing a vaccine that stops transmission of the virus, according to eminent scientist Sir John Bell.

The massive success of Covid vaccines in countries able to obtain them has led to sharp declines in deaths and severe illness from the virus, although the latest variant of Covid, Omicron, is spreading rapidly.

“We need a new vaccine to stop transmission, and there are a lot of interesting ideas,” said Bell, a professor of medicine at Oxford University and a former member of the UK Vaccine Task Force who worked at Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid Gap.

Deaths from disease, those truly horrific deaths, had been eliminated by late spring [2021]and they walked along, at a very low level and very close to the baseline, and have continued to bang along almost in a flat line ever since,” he said.

The baseline represents the number of deaths in the UK that should be expected based on average pre-pandemic mortality data.

However, the spread of the coronavirus remains a problem, leading to those at risk being hospitalized, putting many out of work and leaving a number of people with long-term health problems. Scientists are pinning their hopes on nasal sprays, rather than injections into the arm, that are meant to produce powerful immune protection in the nose and throat, to prevent Covid infection at the gates. More than a dozen trials are underway.

“It is an interesting question whether any of the [current] Bell said vaccines have a long-term future. “None of them are very good at stopping transmission,” he said, and as variants emerge “they become less good over time” at preventing people from getting sick.

“So you have two options. You can make a new vaccine every time you see a variant and it might be less good than the original one, so you end up chasing your tail. Maybe you can use existing vaccines to boost older people in a reasonable amount of time, and prevent them from dying. We have to wait. And we’re seeing if we’ll see more deaths in this population… but we haven’t seen them yet.”

The Canadian immunologist also said “the booster dose had no effect on mortality, despite all the complications,” suggesting that two doses of the vaccine were enough to prevent death and serious illness. “The booster was driven by a perceived need to increase neutralizing antibody levels,” he said.

“This may have some effect on transmissions and symptoms, although we all know it doesn’t do much for Omicron transfusions, but protection against mortality has other associations and mortality in doubly vaccinated people appears to be very low. In fact, the vast majority of the deaths have not been vaccinated.”

The current UK spring campaign, Fourth Strike, targets people over the age of 75, residents of care homes and those who are immunocompromised.

Bell supports another round of booster shots in the fall for those over 65 and vulnerable people with compromised immune systems, but like some other experts, he said he doesn’t see much benefit in offering repeat vaccinations to very young children, children and teens, unless it appears A more serious variant of Covid.

He said he was “not overly enthusiastic” about vaccinating very young children. “Their risk of getting very sick is low with Covid and they almost never die. If we had a great vaccine to prevent transmission, dealing with children would make sense but we don’t. Most of the world is going to get Covid, we need to get used to it.”

He estimated that there was a “very high” chance that any new variant would be relatively mild, such as Omicron, while the chances of a more lethal variant developing were “very low but nothing”.

“We need to be on the lookout for a highly contagious variant that may start killing people on a massive scale and avoid a vaccine response but we don’t see any sign of that today.”

2022-05-07 15:27:20

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