While existing Covid-19 vaccines have largely prevented deaths, scientists must now focus their efforts on developing a vaccine that prevents virus transmission, according to a leading scientist at Oxford.
Covid vaccines have resulted in significant reductions in virus-related deaths and severe disease, but the virus, which is still spreading, remains a source of concern around the world.
“We need a new vaccine to stop transmissions,” Sir John Bell, Professor of Medicine at Oxford University, was quoted in the Guardian as saying.
“Deaths from the disease, those truly horrible deaths, had been largely eliminated by late spring (2021), and they rumbled along, at a very low level and very close to the baseline, and they’ve continued to rumble along almost in a flat line since then,” he added.
However, as new variants emerge, vaccine efficacy has been shown to wane, increasing the risk.
“It’s an intriguing question whether any of the (current) vaccines have a long-term future,” said Bell. “None of them are very good at stopping transmissions,” he said, adding that as variants emerge, “they become less good over time” at preventing people from becoming ill.
He stated that rather than developing a vaccine for each new variant that emerges, it is preferable to develop something that can slow the spread while not harming people, according to the report.
Although vaccine manufacturers have developed booster doses for the elderly, the immunologist stated that “despite all the rah-rah,” “the booster had no impact on deaths,” implying that two vaccine doses were sufficient to prevent death and serious illness.
Bell agreed to another round of booster shots for those over 65 and vulnerable people with weakened immune systems, but he was “not massively enthusiastic” about repeat vaccinations for healthy younger people, children, and teenagers unless a more serious Covid variant emerged.
“With Covid, their risk of severe illness is low, and they almost never die.” Doing kids would make sense if we had a great transmission-blocking vaccine, but we don’t. The majority of the world will receive Covid; we must become accustomed to it.”
He estimated that any new variant will be relatively mild, like Omicron, with the chances of a more lethal variant emerging being “very low but not zero.”
“We need to be on the lookout for a highly pathogenic variant that could start killing people on a large scale while evading the vaccine response,” Bell said.