How New Covid-19 Variants Might Impact Vaccines

Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far.

Tiny, random alterations in viral RNA allow SARS-CoV-2 to change over time. Most of these mutations have next to no effect on the virus and some are even corrected using a special proofreading mechanism, slowing the speed of their natural selection. But a large population size—as in, the nearly 100 million people and counting who have caught Covid-19 worldwide—increases the odds that some mutations will end up giving the virus an evolutionary edge, one that benefits SARS-CoV-2 at great cost to us.

I discussed in my last piece the risk that new variants of SARS-CoV-2, whether already emergent or soon to come, might develop a propensity for immune escape. Now comes a question that has been top of mind for most since variants like B.1.1.7 and 501.V2 were first identified: what does this possibility mean for our efforts to vaccinate millions, if not billions, of people?

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Originally published on Forbes (January 13, 2021)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.