The virus that causes COVID-19 likely is here to stay, and its success in humans means that stronger defense measures will be needed, say Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., and other experts from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The virus’s ability to rapidly produce variants that infect humans is a “wake-up call” and a sign that a pan-viral vaccine is needed — one that can protect against not only current but yet unknown variants of the virus, the authors wrote in a Friday editorial in JAMA Network.
Along with several mutations that the virus now carries, changes to the virus’s spike protein are very effective — and concerning, the authors acknowledged.
These variants are moving targets that not only have the potential to reduce vaccine efficacy; they also can wreak havoc on some COVID-19 treatments as well. Among the variants that have scientists most concerned, B.1.351 already may be partially or fully resistant to some of the SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibody therapies authorized for use against COVID-19 in the United States, the authors reported. There is also a new strain recently found in California and known as 20C/S:452R, which scientists are watching closely.
There hasn’t been much financial support for “pancoronavirus” vaccine research in the past. But the scourge of COVID-19 has spurred action, and work has gotten started on prototypes in animals, according to a New York Times report.
The takeaway? Aside from supporting more vaccine research, scientists and policymakers must commit to detecting and studying all new SARS-CoV-2 variants , the JAMA authors wrote.
Robust surveillance, tracking and vaccine deployment will be needed worldwide, the authors concluded.
In related news:
Coronavirus, like flu, may be here to stay, EU health agency chief says European health officials concur with their American counterparts that SARS-CoV-2, like flu, may be here to stay. “We should be prepared that it will remain with us,” said Andrea Ammon, the head of the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, according to Agence France Presse. “It wouldn’t be the first virus that is with us forever, so it’s not an unusual feature for a virus.” The daily COVID-19 case count across Europe has dropped within the last month, from 250,000 to 150,000, according to official data compiled by AFP.