Representational image | A magnified coronavirus germ is displayed on a monitor during coronavirus patient sample detection tests in the virology research labs in a hospital in Leuven, Belgium | Bloomberg
Representational image | A magnified coronavirus germ is displayed on a monitor during coronavirus patient sample detection tests in the virology research labs in a hospital in Leuven, Belgium | Bloomberg
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At the end of 2020, there was a strong hope that high levels of vaccination would see humanity finally gain the upper hand over SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In an ideal scenario, the virus would then be contained at very low levels without further societal disruption or significant numbers of deaths.

But since then, new “variants of concern” have emerged and spread worldwide, putting current pandemic control efforts, including vaccination, at risk of being derailed.

Put simply, the game has changed, and a successful global rollout of current vaccines by itself is no longer a guarantee of victory.

No one is truly safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe. We are in a race against time to get global transmission rates low enough to prevent the emergence and spread of new variants. The danger is that variants will arise that can overcome the immunity conferred by vaccinations or prior infection.

What’s more, many countries lack the capacity to track emerging variants via genomic surveillance. This means the situation may be even more serious than it appears.

As members of the Lancet COVID-19 Commission Taskforce on Public Health, we call for urgent action in response to the new variants. These new variants mean we cannot rely on the vaccines alone to provide protection but must maintain strong public health measures to reduce the risk from these variants. At the same time, we need to accelerate the vaccine program in all countries in an equitable way.

Together, these strategies will deliver “maximum suppression” of the virus.

What are ‘variants of concern’?

Genetic mutations of viruses like SARS-CoV-2 emerge frequently, but some variants are labelled “variants of concern”, because they can reinfect people who have had a previous infection or vaccination, or are more transmissible or can lead to more severe disease.

There are currently at least three documented SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern:

  • B.1.351, first reported in South Africa in December 2020
  • B.1.1.7, first reported in the United Kingdom in December 2020
  • P.1, first identified in Japan among travellers from Brazil in January 2021.

Similar mutations are arising in different countries simultaneously, meaning not even border controls and high vaccination rates can necessarily protect countries from home-grown variants, including variants of concern, where there is substantial community transmission.

If there are high transmission levels, and hence extensive replication of SARS-CoV-2, anywhere in the world, more variants of concern will inevitably arise and the more infectious variants will dominate. With international mobility, these variants will spread.

South Africa’s experience suggests that past infection with SARS-CoV-2 offers only partial protection against the B.1.351 variant, and it is about 50% more transmissible than pre-existing variants. The B.1.351 variant has already been detected in at least 48 countries as of March 2021.

The impact of the new variants on the effectiveness of vaccines is still not clear. Recent real-world evidence from the UK suggests both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines provide significant protection against severe disease and hospitalisations from the B.1.1.7 variant.

On the other hand, the B.1.351 variant seems to reduce the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine against mild to moderate illness. We do not yet have clear evidence on whether it also reduces effectiveness against severe disease.

For these reasons, reducing community transmission is vital. No single action is sufficient to prevent the virus’s spread; we must maintain strong public health measures in tandem with vaccination programs in every country.


Also read: What is double mutation & why it’s the latest buzzword as India sees a Covid surge


Why we need maximum suppression

Each time the virus replicates, there is an opportunity for a mutation to occur. And as we are already seeing around the world, some of the resulting variants risk eroding the effectiveness of vaccines.

That’s why we have called for a global strategy of “maximum suppression”.

Public health leaders should focus on efforts that maximally suppress viral infection rates, thus helping to prevent the emergence of mutations that can become new variants of concern.

Prompt vaccine rollouts alone will not be enough to achieve this; continued public health measures, such as face masks and physical distancing, will be vital too. Ventilation of indoor spaces is important, some of which is under people’s control, some of which will require adjustments to buildings.

Fair access to vaccines

Global equity in vaccine access is vital too. High-income countries should support multilateral mechanisms such as the COVAX facility, donate excess vaccines to low- and middle- income countries, and support increased vaccine production.

However, to prevent the emergence of viral variants of concern, it may be necessary to prioritise countries or regions with the highest disease prevalence and transmission levels, where the risk of such variants emerging is greatest.

Those with control over health-care resources, services and systems should ensure support is available for health professionals to manage increased hospitalisations over shorter periods during surges without reducing care for non-COVID-19 patients.

Health systems must be better prepared against future variants. Suppression efforts should be accompanied by:

  • genomic surveillance programs to identify and quickly characterise emerging variants in as many countries as possible around the world
  • rapid large-scale “second-generation” vaccine programs and increased production capacity that can support equity in vaccine distribution
  • studies of vaccine effectiveness on existing and new variants of concern
  • adapting public health measures (such as double masking) and re-committing to health system arrangements (such as ensuring personal protective equipment for health staff)
  • behavioural, environmental, social and systems interventions, such as enabling ventilation, distancing between people, and an effective find, test, trace, isolate and support system.


COVID-19 variants of concern have changed the game. We need to recognise and act on this if we as a global society are to avoid future waves of infections, yet more lockdowns and restrictions, and avoidable illness and death.

The Conversation

Susan Michie, Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change, UCL; Chris Bullen, Professor of Public Health, University of Auckland; Jeffrey V Lazarus, Associate Research Professor, Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal); John N. Lavis, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Evidence-Informed Health Systems, McMaster University; John Thwaites, Chair, Monash Sustainable Development Institute & ClimateWorks Australia, Monash University; Liam Smith, Director, BehaviourWorks, Monash Sustainable Development Institute, Monash University; Salim Abdool Karim, Director, Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA), and Yanis Ben Amor, Assistant Professor of Global Health and Microbiological Sciences, Executive Director – Center for Sustainable Development (Earth Institute), Columbia University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Also read: Covid mutants multiply as scientists race to decode variations


 

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50 COMMENTS

  1. is modi pushing india into health, economic , political , social , intellectual crisis ? health – doing mass rally just to show power to win election , political – virtually media is indirect full control of modi except a few , judiciary – who forbade the 4th pillar not to publish covid related issue , CAA judgemtnt vilationg article 14 , puducherry, karnateka , madhyapraesh , political gains by horse trading mocking anti defection , Human rights violations in kashmir ,delhi amendment act of 2021 , curbing the executive and lagislative power of elected mandate who ws doing well at his job @ kejriwaal , social – migrating labour crisis , widening gap bw rich and poors , domestic vilence agains women , most women are unemployed during covid crisis and dumbess of media on these brng issue jst sprreading the propaganda of india – pakistan , hindu – muslim
    intellectual – our media is not transparent all these tv news channels has largely influenced by political support of ruling govt – @ republic , zee media , india tv , and lot more , but i have deep faith in THE PRINT for its fairness and soverignty .
    politicsed news like pro-hindu, are sujected to favouring the bjp rulng party that are clearly evident from these news channels

  2. Lack of foresight i the govt.they cannot be able
    to control this any more left t othe people t manage

  3. The need of the hour is not Panic inducing articles but well researched articles which will offer pragmatic steps for people to deal with a Pandemic.Looks like your brand of journalism is anything but that .Inculcate sensitivity and ethics if you want to stay in PRINT!

  4. The best way to fix this problem is to ignore this problem. It will sort out itself. Covid will spread and herd immunity will occur.

    The only benifit out of these panic situation is to pharmaceutical companies.

    just stay calm. Keep good hygiene, keep healthy, eat healthy. Be more spiritual. All will be well.

    • yes it will sort itself out like every other problem we face………poverty, religion and caste based violence , poverty……….because ignoring our problems and burying our heads in the sand works out well for us

  5. Abh tak ek sal mein humneh jo dhekha hai uss sey yeh nishkarsh niklata hai ke jo bhi Respected PM ji key nirdeshon ki Palnah : Mask jab Ghar sey bahir nikleney, 2 Gaz ki social distancing jab bhi outdoor jayen or Again and again wash our own hands ,binah kissi kam ke mutterghrashti na karen toh KOI BHI MYE KA LAL CORONA VIRUS PASS NAHI KAR SAKTAH HAI. Prabhu ji bhi sath dettey hain KAHAWAT hai Koi Bal Banka Nahi kar saktah hai ji. Dekhney mein yeh attah hai kewal 20 % hi log restrictions ko use kartey hain baki sabh Rabh rakhey, Ghar mein isolate ja Hospital mein bhartee. Faisla Humneh khudh hI karnah hai Corona Virus toh apnih Moj Mastee mein ghoom hi reha hai apneh app. Jisko pakerhna chahe pakergha. Yeh hi Nature ka Asool hai ji jo har kissi key bus ki batt nahi ji.

  6. The first thing that came to mind was yas the player finally hit the genetic reshuffle on the play through

    If you don’t know what I mean it’s a plague Inc reference

  7. I feel that we will be free of corona when corona itself decides to be free of us ie successive changes etc weakens it to such and extent that it becomes harmless.But when that stage comes nobody can say.

  8. Probably, but we can’t really make any judgment without further input from the scientists. I’m afraid we’ve just got to be even more vigilant nd obey the social distancing laws until we get the all clear.

    And that’s more than enough to worry about

  9. Idiotic article creating fear among people , inconsistent stolen copy and paste article without analyzing it properly, the stupid tile says Vaccine is not enough and within the article the author says “Fair access to vaccines

    “Global equity in vaccine access is vital too”.

    Seems the author is mentally ill patient.

  10. I don’t know how “the Print” can publish such article. ( because it doesn’t sound like news at all ). These type of news, set the credibility of the news provider and I think “the Print” has lost it.
    “Variant of concern” is produced by virus’s genetic shift or drift. And it will happen till the virus changes the genetic sequences on its own. And after that it will vanish from the globe. Till then we have to fight.

    Yes the vaccines developed till date are developed in pilot phase and they are working decently. The point of concern is to reduce mortality and morbidity. The point of concern is to create awareness about this and most important behavioural change. Please work on the above two points rather then giving useless information about genetic variation. Layman don’t understand the genetic thing and he has to do nothing with this. Bring change to society by meaningful content.

  11. As a medical student i don’t know much but i can surely tell u that article is might be scary but it’s a harsh truth and we should accept that as soon as possible. Complete lockdown and vaccination is a key.

    • I am an engineer guy. Vaccination drive has just started baby step. Only 9,01,98,673 of indians are vaccinated of the 1,390,493,952. Everything takes time. Hopefully, not in medias radar and our eyes, somebody should be doing their research to bring out a new drug to it. It will take a long while.

  12. What’s the treatments for side effects. After how many days patients get vaccination. Dietary routines. Dos & don’ts. Is covid 19 is a stigma for the health of person. Pl explain.

    • There r plenty articles on web. U can refer to any. They r rare, maybe a fever for a day or 2. Very mild.

  13. paid group of scientists, media, doctors and the like promoting vaccines which haven’t even undergone trial for one year with disinformation of the type never seen in history. Why don’t they find vaccines still for
    Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis)
    Chikungunya
    Dengue
    Cytomegalovirus
    HIV/AIDS
    Hookworm infection
    Leishmaniasis
    Malaria
    Respiratory Syncytial Virus
    Schistosomiasis
    the reason for this push is “blowing in the wind”

    • billions of dollars are spent every year into researching the vaccines/treatments/cures……just because you don’t read anything that’s not on whatssapp doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is stuck in the 5th century. the authors make some valid points but are lost on a populace that lacks basic undrstanding of thescientific method

  14. Is this an article. Crazy. It is just a dooms day opinion of bunch of people. Do you want people not get vaccinated. STUPID

    • Print is run by bunch of jokers who call them as journalists. These people are time pass easy earning journalists with out any expertise. They just go tp some expert , try to understand half from them. Understand half what has been told to them then they will just amplify theie stupidity through their communication skills.

    • Jab new varient entry marega na , tb pta chalega. Some idiots can’t imagine the severity. They only come to know when they see themselves in a icu of covid center

  15. As a layman I couldn’t understand how Jishnu krishna Venkat is clearly saying covaxine kills all variant. Even though this information clearly tells about three new variants how covaxine kills these new variants. It was not substantiated by Mr.Jishnu. When the second wave Covid.2 hit our country and health department is telling this viruses ate spreadingly fastly than Covid.1 definitely variant could be there. At least in our country whether it was identified? Without knowing what is the new variant we can’t rely only on covaxine. As told only by effective health measures we can avoid Covid.2 spreading at faster rate .We can’t rely fully on vaccination only.

  16. You dumbos shouldn’t create fear, rather encourage people to get vaccinated. Wtf is wrong with your douchebag publications these days?

  17. The print should be responsible with regards to how they sensationalise their headings and then put way down in the article the uncertainty of the severity of the virus. No one has the patience to read till the last line and assume the truth from the first half. Please do not put unwarranted fear in the populace just to get readers. The studies have yet to confirm this variant theory and so far they are polarised on this matter with some saying it maybe non lethal and the other side saying it’s lethal. Let the study complete before you print fear mongerimg headlines. Be journalists not bloggers.

    • When new varient would enter in you then only you would realize the inertia of the impact by these newly one viruses. Door se sab normal hi lagta hai, jab hoga tab pata chalega.
      I totally agree with the contents of article

  18. You at Print are doling out one negative news after the other. All Doctors have approved the existing vaccine. Newer variants pose challenge but don’t outrightly reject rightful treatments.

  19. Bull shit news.. Bull shit writer.. Stop doing bakwasss and close your leftist news.. Garbage

  20. Covid-19 is a HOAX or a Myth.

    All through the world is playing the unwanted games with their own peoples and killing them for their own benefits.

    My question is, when does the corona virus will comes in the dreams of these foolish peoples and tells all these lie stories, as I had changed the varient and moves to next stages?

    The whole world has became an EDUCATED ILLITERATES. due to over education and foolishness.

  21. Nobody is thinking about steam therapy. Everybody should adopt steam daily to save individual infection. Adopt it globally and individually to contain the infection at bay.

  22. 𝙲𝚘𝚟𝚊𝚡𝚒𝚗 𝙷𝚊𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚊𝚋𝚒𝚕𝚒𝚝𝚢 2 𝚔𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚊𝚕𝚕 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚟𝚒𝚛𝚞𝚜 𝚟𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚜. 𝚃𝚑𝚊𝚝’𝚜 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚘𝚗𝚗𝚕𝚢 𝚟𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚒𝚗𝚎 𝚒𝚗 𝚝𝚑𝚎 𝚠𝚘𝚛𝚕𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚊𝚝 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚍𝚘 𝚏𝚘𝚛 𝚗𝚘𝚠

  23. Covid awareness by govts led by variant political parties, opposition &ruling parties , elections ,take it easy of pandemic viruses, population both educated&uneducated unheeding safety norms suggested by world medical forums to resist covid spreading in second spell,cold wars between nations, inefficient w.h.o. not concerned with health care of world population making concern after human lossby pandemic viruses, still unable to quell present &future viruses etc.may be reasons as in lndia all political parties are responsible for community spread again in large numbers .

  24. Those who have authored the article are not virologists or microbiologists. Broadly speaking their main forte is psychology.

    • Psychopaths having a free run, lapped up by psychofants.

      Time to have two worlds- one that believes in all this, and one that doesn’t.

      Let’s see who survives and prospers.

  25. 𝙽𝚘 𝚅𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚒𝚗𝚎, 𝚎𝚡𝚌𝚎𝚙𝚝 𝙸𝚗𝚍𝚒𝚊’𝚜 𝙲𝚘𝚟𝚊𝚡𝚒𝚗 𝚌𝚊𝚗 𝚔𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚎𝚊𝚌𝚑 𝚗 𝚎𝚟𝚎𝚛𝚢 𝚟𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚗𝚝. 𝚂𝚘 𝚝𝚑𝚎𝚛𝚎 𝚒𝚜 𝚜𝚝𝚒𝚕𝚕 𝚊 𝚟𝚊𝚌𝚌𝚒𝚗𝚎.

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