Regular booster vaccines against the novel coronavirus will be needed because of mutations that make it more transmissible and better able to evade human immunity, the head of Britain’s effort to sequence the virus’s genomes told Reuters.
The novel coronavirus, which has killed 2.65 million people globally since it emerged in China in late 2019, mutates around once every two weeks, slower than influenza or HIV, but enough to require tweaks to vaccines.
Sharon Peacock, who heads COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) which has sequenced nearly half of all the novel coronavirus genomes so far mapped globally, said international cooperation was needed in the “cat and mouse” battle with the virus.
“We have to appreciate that we were always going to have to have booster doses; immunity to coronavirus doesn’t last forever,” Peacock told Reuters at the non-profit Wellcome Sanger Institute’s 55-acre campus outside Cambridge.
“We already are tweaking the vaccines to deal with what the virus is doing in terms of evolution – so there are variants arising that have a combination of increased transmissibility and an ability to partially evade our immune response,” she said.
Peacock said she was confident regular booster shots – such as for influenza – would be needed to deal with future variants but that the speed of vaccine innovation meant those shots could be developed at pace and rolled out to the population.
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