A new publication by researchers at the University of East Anglia and the Earlham Institute has said warns against relaxing Covid-19 restrictions prematurely.
The publication, entitled: COVID-19 adaptive evolution during the pandemic – Implications of new SARS-CoV-2 variants on public health policies – published in the journal Virulence, describes how the world is in an “arms race” with the virus and how rising cases could provide opportunities for it to evolve into even more transmissible variants.
The researchers say that new variants could be more virulent, more vaccine resistant, and more dangerous for children and vulnerable groups such as transplant patients.
The Lead author and editor in chief of Virulence, Prof Kevin Tyler from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, noted: “Although vaccines have weakened the link between infection and mortality, they should not be used as an argument to justify a broad change in policy for countries experiencing an exponential increase in infection numbers.
“This is because most of the world’s population are still unvaccinated, and even in countries with efficient vaccination programmes, a significant proportion of society, particularly children, remain unprotected.”
In his argument, Tyler said relaxing restrictions boost transmission and allows the virus population to expand, which enhances its adaptive evolutionary potential and increases the risk of vaccine-resistant strains emerging by a process known as antigenic drift.
“Put simply, limiting the spread of Covid-19 as much as possible restricts the number of future deaths by restricting the rate with which new variants arise.
“Successive SARS-CoV-2 variants such as the Alpha and Delta variants, have displaced one another since the outbreak.
“Slowing down the rate of new variant emergence requires us to act fast and decisively, reducing the number of infected people including children with vaccines and in combination with other public health policies.”
Tyler said in most cases, children are not vaccinated against Covid-19 because the risk to them becoming seriously ill is very low.
But he warned that new strains may evolve with higher transmissibility in children, and vaccinating children may become necessary to control the emergence of new variants.
Source: Vanguard news, Nigeria