Sage experts ‘almost certain’ new variants will eventually beat vaccines


Experts in the UK warned there are various ways Covid could evolve to become more dangerous (Picture: AFP/Alamy)

An alarming new SAGE report suggests it is ‘almost certain’ that Covid strains which can evade vaccines will emerge.

Government scientists set out three scenarios in which coronavirus could evolve to become more dangerous, with experts branding the chance of gradual changes in the illness eventually making vaccines fail ‘almost inevitable’.

That scenario is unlikely for some time – meaning booster jabs, new treatments and other preparations could mitigate the impact.  

But in the sobering paper, scientists warned of two other ‘realistic possibilities’ for how vaccine resistant strains could emerge.

They include the sudden appearance of a new ‘spike gene sequence’ in the virus, or another variant developing in animals and then passing to humans.

Both possibilities are seen by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies as less likely than a gradual evolution – but more damaging.

Outlining the impact of a new spike sequence, the paper says: ‘The consequence could be a virus that causes disease at a level similar to Covid-19 when it first emerged but against which our current battery of spike glycoprotein-based vaccines would not work.’

Boris Johnson is being urged to lower UK case numbers and help vaccination schemes abroad (Picture: AFP)

The other two scenarios which the scientists warn against include a new strain emerging which causes more people to become severely ill and die or the emergence of variants which are resistant to current treatments.

Experts called for a reduction in UK case numbers and help to vaccinate more people abroad to lower the risks.

SAGE also noted increased concern regarding the Beta and Gamma variants of the virus given their ability to ‘reinfect people more efficiently’ and therefore increase the potential for new variants to emerge among people who have already contracted Covid-19.

The report was originally published at the start of this week but only made public by the Government on Friday.

Dr Philippa Whitford MP, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Vaccines for All said: ‘This report, which should have sent shock waves through the UK Government, was instead quietly snuck out among a glut of reports during parliamentary recess.

‘The UK only donated its first vaccine doses internationally this week and, unless there is a rapid increase in global production, through sharing knowledge and technology, it simply will not be possible to vaccinate the world and bring the pandemic to an end.

‘Without stricter border control measures we risk importing vaccine-resistant variants while uncontrolled spread here could lead to yet another UK variant.’

She continued: ‘The government mustn’t stick its head in the sand or it will run the risk of un-doing the progress we have made over the past 18 months.’

Professor Martin McKee CBE, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Independent SAGE added: ‘These stark words from the Government’s own advisors underlines what many of us have been warning about and confirms there are still obstacles to overcome.

‘The government can’t be complacent, they must continue their support for the development of the next generation of vaccines and prioritise the reduction of infections here at home to reduce the possibility of another domestic variant emerging.’

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