COVID-19 mutations could make current vaccines ineffective in a year or less, experts say

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Experts are pushing for urgent action to help boost global vaccine coverage

Responses from a new survey of 77 epidemiologists, virologists, and infectious disease specialists suggest that current COVID-19 vaccines could be rendered ineffective in a year or less due to coronavirus mutations. 

The survey, which was conducted by the People’s Vaccine Alliance, found that two-thirds of the world’s leading experts across 28 countries thought that the virus will mutate “to the extent that the majority of first-generation vaccines are rendered ineffective and new or modified vaccines are required” in a year or less. 

Fewer than one in eight experts polled said they believed that mutations would never render the current vaccines ineffective. A majority (88 percent) said that persistent low vaccine coverage in many countries is poised to make vaccine-resistant mutations more likely to emerge. 

“In many rich nations, vaccinated people are starting to feel safer, but unless we vaccinate all nations, there is a huge risk that the protection offered by vaccines will be shattered by fresh mutations,” said Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s Health Policy Manager. 

“This survey highlights that we need a people’s vaccine, not only to protect people in the world’s poorest countries, but to ensure that people all over the world who’ve already been vaccinated aren’t put at risk again,” Marriott added. 

Expanding vaccine coverage through sharing of technology

The majority of experts involved in the survey (74 percent) said that open sharing of technology and intellectual property could increase global vaccine coverage and help stave off potential mutations. 

The People’s Vaccine Alliance is calling for the “the lifting of pharmaceutical monopolies and the sharing of technology to urgently boost vaccine supply.”

“Given vaccines are our most crucial weapon in the fight against COVID-19, world leaders must take control to enable the World Health Organisation’s COVID Technology Access Pool to facilitate sharing of technology and Intellectual Property so that all capable companies can maximise global vaccine production,” said Dr Mohga Kamal Yanni, Senior Health Policy Advisor to The People Vaccine Alliance. 

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