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Danger closes in from Covid mutations

Vaccine equityJAKE JOHNSON
| Common Dreams | Edited

In early March, just before Papua New Guinea experienced a shocking spike in Covid-19 cases, PNG Attitude reported that Australia had joined other Western countries in rejecting a proposal to lift vaccine-related patent protections, which would have made it possible to produce more vaccine.

Now US president Joe Biden is considering whether to throw US support behind the proposal and so allow for a massive acceleration of vaccine production and distribution around the world. As the following article reveals, it could be disastrous for the world if this does not happen soon - KJ

PORTLAND, USA - Epidemiologists from dozens of countries issued a loud warning last week.

It was that failure to ensure global administration of Covid-19 vaccines within the next year could allow vaccine-resistant variants to spread among unprotected populations to such an extent that current shots are rendered ineffective.

According to a People’s Vaccine Alliance survey of 77 leading epidemiologists from 28 countries, two-thirds said they believe the international community has “a year or less” before Covid-19 mutations proliferate widely enough to make a majority of first-generation vaccines ineffective.

Nearly one-third of the expert respondents said a more accurate timeframe for that alarming scenario is nine months or less.

“With millions of people around the world infected with this virus, new mutations arise every day,” said Gregg Gonsalves, associate professor of epidemiology at Yale University.

“Sometimes they find a niche that makes them more fit than their predecessors.

“These lucky variants could transmit more efficiently and potentially evade immune responses to previous strains.”

“Unless we vaccinate the world,” Gonsalves warned, “we leave the playing field open to more and more mutations, which could churn out variants that could evade our current vaccines and require booster shots to deal with them.”

Quarraisha Abdool Karim, professor in clinical epidemiology at Columbia University, echoed Gonsalves’ assessment, saying that the potential for Covid-19 variants to undercut vaccination progress serves as yet another example of “our interdependence” in the fight against a virus that has no regard for borders.

“High coverage rates and herd immunity in one country or region of the world while others, particularly low- and middle-income countries, continue to wait in line will create the perfect environment for the virus to continue to mutate and negate the benefits of any vaccine protection,” said Karim.

“In contrast, there are enormous benefits for everyone to have more equitable access to available doses of vaccines.”

The People’s Vaccine Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 international organisations, said if the current inoculation rate persists it is likely only 10% of people in the majority of poor countries will be vaccinated in the next year.

“In many rich nations, vaccinated people are starting to feel safer,” said Anna Marriott, health policy manager at Oxfam.

“But unless we vaccinate all nations, there is a huge risk that the protection offered by vaccines will be shattered by fresh mutations.

“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.”


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