Massive problem that could cause COVID to bypass our vaccines


COVID cases hit two-year low in weeks rising again in some countries. In the United States, there are 100,000 new infections every day, an average increase from 30,000 in mid-March.

This trend is deepening an important debate in the dynamics world. What is the best strategy to prevent the deadly mass death from the worst new strain of COVID-19? New restrictions? new vaccine? A new treatment? a combination of the three?

No matter what consensus is formed, we could face four years of a pandemic. But of course there are pitfalls. Public health costs money. And in the world’s richest country, the United States, some right-wing politicians are doing their best to ensure that no new funds are available to accelerate the development, production and distribution of new vaccines and treatments.

Vaccine development is stalling. China is still pushing for domestic vaccines that do not work well. A major western vaccine manufacturer is currently focusing on developing boosters for the Omicron variant. However, by the time these boosters are ready in the fall, the Omicron will have been replaced by a new, more dangerous variant.

Two years ago, the world worked together to develop a highly effective messenger-RNA vaccine. Today there is less money and less urgency. In other words, vaccine development is slowing down right at the moment when the virus is accelerating.

Experts warn that the likelihood of a catastrophe later this year or next year is growing.

Clearly, the current increase in COVID-19 is modest. In the United States alone, there were an average of 800,000 new cases each day in mid-January. And due to high levels of vaccination, as well as natural antibodies from past infections, hospitalizations and deaths do not increase at the same rate as cases.

But as the SARS-CoV-2 virus mutates faster than ever, the rise in cases in some countries is a reminder that the pandemic is not over. Viruses are constantly changing and we are looking for new ways to bypass our immune barriers.

There is a lot of uncertainty here. “The virus may or may not develop into greater vaccine evasion in the near term,” Eric Bortz, a virologist and public health expert at the University of Alaska Anchorage, told The Daily Beast.

Epidemiologists do not miss opportunities. They are looking ahead to predict how the novel coronavirus will evolve and what we should do about it. They almost unanimously agree that pathogens will be with us for years to come. But they don’t agree on what we should do about it.

If SARS-CoV-2 makes a huge evolutionary leap and circumvents the protective effects of our vaccines and antibodies, there are options. This is the nightmare scenario and the one that drives the most intense discussion.

A new lockdown is one option, but it’s least likely due to the lack of deep popularity of strict restrictions on schools, businesses, and travel. China’s disastrous experience with stringent lockdown measures in recent months has only highlighted the risks of new major COVID-19 restrictions.

The most viable option is constraint. vaccine. antiviral drugs.

The vaccine we currently have is a mixed bag. These include the old-fashioned Russian and Chinese zaps using the cold virus as vectors for fragments of the coronavirus or containing the completely killed SARS-CoV-2. There are not many good data on this vaccine and many experts are skeptical of its effectiveness.

But there are some of the best Western vaccines out there, including the latest messenger RNA jabs from Moderna and Pfizer and the cold virus vector vax from Johnson and Johnson. The data is clear. The vaccine provides strong protection against serious infections in 70%, 80% or 90% of cases, depending on who was stung and how long ago it was vaccinated.

“The reality is we still have a vaccine that works well,” James Lawler, an infectious disease expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, told the Daily Beast. He said, “It’s just a weakened immune system.” All vaccines and natural antibodies disappear over time. However, a daisy chain of increasingly contagious novel coronavirus variants and sub-variants (Omicron followed last fall BA.1, BA.2, BA.4, BA.5, BA.2.12 and XE) accelerated the decline. immune.

A second booster in conventional two-dose mRNA vaccines can restore and prolong the effectiveness of the Zap. Some of the major vaccine manufacturers even develop boosters specifically for Omicron.

The inherent flexibility of mRNA vaccines makes this possible. The basic mRNA-vaccine formula is the same for any disease or strain of disease. All you need to do is swap out new genetic material depending on what you are trying to prevent. “It can be used to change vaccines in a short time,” said Ali Mokdad, professor of health measurement sciences at the University of Washington’s Institute of Health, in an interview with The Daily Beast. “But it all depends on how quickly the virus mutates.”

The seemingly accelerated rate of viral evolution in COVID could mean that disease outpaces processes that modulate mRNA. By the time Omicron-specific boosters arrive, it is likely that Omicron and its closest descendants will disappear and a new highly mutated form of SARS-CoV-2 will dominate.

Instead of chasing the COVID strain with boosters, we can change course and build a whole new defense against the virus. There are two main new vaccine types in development. A “mucosal” nasal vaccine and a universal “pan-coronavirus” vaccine.

“I think vaccines will continue to play a very important public health role in the near future,” Paul McCray, an immunologist at the University of Iowa, told The Daily Beast. “The intranasal mucosal vaccine will be mixed.”

Nasal vaccines, given as a spray, induce immunity in the mucous tissues of the nose and throat, where COVID infection usually begins. All conventional coronavirus vaccines are injected into muscle tissue. The antibodies they produce are effective against the virus, but less More effective than nasal-derived antibodies.

If nasal vaccines are highly optimized for respiratory viruses like COVID, the pan-coronavirus will do the opposite. It aims to be general rather than specific. “The best solution is a universal pan-COVID vaccine,” Bortz said.

The rationale is that there are many coronaviruses in addition to SARS-CoV-2. Some scientists argue that the latest omicron subvariant has evolved so highly that it should be classified as an entirely novel coronavirus. “There are already immunologically distinct sub-lineages of omicrons,” Bortz said.

A vaccine that works against all or many coronaviruses may outpace mutations in certain pathogens. The upside is that a single vaccine, added periodically, can provide some protection against the current COVID pandemic and the next. The downside is that a universal COVID vaccine may be less effective than a vaccine made for a specific coronavirus. Jack of all trades, not the owner of anyone.

Oh, and safe and effective pan-coronavirus vaccines, such as nasal vaccines, “could take years,” Bortz noted.

As SARS-CoV-2 continues to mutate, some epidemiologists believe that therapies rather than vaccines should be the main focus. After three years of conflicting development, there are certainly plenty of drugs to choose from, including monoclonal antibodies, remdesivir, and paxlovide.

The latter, a prescription drug, was a real breakthrough when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved emergency use for certain patients in December. After testing positive for COVID, you can take a Paxlovid course at home and cut your chances of a serious illness in half.

However, a treatment-first strategy represents a kind of surrender. Treatment is reactive. Get treatment after getting COVID. For the majority of people, it is safer to prevent an infection than to treat it quickly.

The reality is that different countries will pursue different public health strategies, and most will want a mix of vaccines and treatments. The jab to prevent the most worst infections. Treatment for breakthrough infections that have not been vaccinated. “Vaccines are important, but just in case treatment comes first,” Mokdad said.

The problem, of course, is that resources are limited. Paying the world demand for all these new vaccines and treatments is a political issue and a difficult one.

To keep lockdowns on the table and avoid the toughest choices for a COVID strategy, governments can fund every option. What is worrisome is that in the countries with the highest spending, the right-wing periphery is working hard to keep federal wallets from closing.

President Joe Biden’s administration wants $10 billion in new funding to sustain new food supplies. today’s Vaccines and therapeutics are flowing, accelerating development. tomorrow Vaccines and Treatments. But Republicans in the U.S. Senate, who need a vote to approve the money, claimed About batching funding requests with extraneous measures to block asylum seekers at the southern border.

If the fight over immigration can put a strain on America’s COVID strategy, it’s time for that strategy to change.

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