Leading health experts from around the world warn that slow vaccine rollouts and uneven distribution could render injections ineffective as new coronavirus mutations emerge within the next year.
Seventy-seven scientists – from leading academic institutions from around the world – participated in the survey with about 30 percent suggesting a second-generation vaccine would be needed immediately within nine months, unless a vaccine is produced and distributed more widely around the world.
Nearly 90 percent of researchers said the more vaccine-resistant mutations were likely due to “very low vaccine coverage” in many countries, mostly developing countries.
At current levels, it is likely that only 10 percent of people in most poor countries will be vaccinated next year, according to The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 organizations. The alliance is calling for the lifting of the pharmaceutical monopoly and technology sharing to quickly increase the supply of vaccines.
The more viruses circulating, the more likely it is that mutations and variants will appear, which could render our current vaccine ineffective. At the same time, poor countries are left without vaccines and basic medical supplies like oxygen, ”said Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh.
“As we have learned, viruses don’t care about borders. We have to vaccinate as many people as possible, anywhere in the world, as quickly as possible. Why wait and watch instead of getting ahead? “
According to the survey, 66 percent of researchers said humans had a year or less before the virus mutated and the majority of first-generation vaccines were “deemed ineffective”. Eighteen percent said we had six months or less, and 33 percent estimated about nine months.
The alliance calls on all pharmaceutical companies working on the COVID-19 vaccine to publicly share their technology and intellectual property through the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Bundle to accelerate the production and distribution of injections worldwide.
If we go to war with a country called COVID, will the government leave important decisions about production, supply and prices in the hands of arms manufacturers? ”Said Dr Mohga Kamal Yanni, senior health policy adviser for The People Vaccine Alliance.
“As vaccines are our most important weapon in the fight against COVID-19, world leaders must take control.”
Meanwhile, world leaders are pushing for new international agreements to prepare for the next global pandemic – and avoid fighting over a vaccine that hinders the COVID-19 response.
Leaders from 25 countries, the European Union and the World Health Organization (WHO) are working to create written ground rules to streamline and accelerate reactions to future global outbreaks.
The agreement aims to ensure that information, viral pathogens, technology to contain pandemics and products such as vaccines are shared quickly and fairly among countries.
“Time to act now. The world cannot wait until the pandemic is over to start planning the next one, ”WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference.
Therefore, we are committed to ensuring universal and equal access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this pandemic and the future.”
Leaders from major world powers including the United States, China, Russia and Japan have so far not been included in the signatories.
But Tedros said Washington and Beijing had positively responded to the call and insisted it was not a problem they had not registered. Tedros said he hopes to get a resolution in time for the World Health Assembly in May.
The impetus to step up joint efforts comes as the planet struggles to join forces to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed nearly 2.8 million people worldwide and hit the global economy. The spread of the coronavirus has led to mutual blame between the capitals and accusations that wealthy nations have stockpiled vaccines.