A senior figure from the UK government’s immunisation committee predicts that Britons will have to have annual coronavirus vaccines as the Chinese coronavirus mutates into different strains.
“I think we’re going to have to live with the idea of new variants,” said Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chairman of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI), on Monday. Professor Harnden made the remarks after a dozen cases of the South African variant of COVID-19 were found in southern England in people who had no links to recent travellers.
“This virus does mutate and will carry on mutating in different parts of the world and within the UK. What we need to be ahead of is in terms of how we tackle this. It’s nimble, but we need to be nimble in return. You can be confident that these vaccines are very easy to edit and tweak, and at the moment the scientists are working furiously behind the scenes to make sure that we have an edited vaccine that available for the strains that are circulating at the time,” the JVCI deputy chairman told Channel 4 News.
He continued: “I do think that we are going to be in a position where we have to have an annual coronavirus vaccine, and that annual vaccine will be tailored to the variant strains in the UK at that particular moment. It’s something we just have to get used to. It’s not spooky, it’s not scary, it’s to be expected. But we do need to be vigilant and ahead of the game.”
The scientist made the remarks the same day the government revealed that it was so confident in its vaccine strategy, that it was already making orders for 2022 stockpiles from Valneva, bringing total orders with the French drugs company for this year and next to 100 million doses. Valneva, which has a plant in Scotland, said that the UK could order a further 90 million doses between 2023 and 2025.
Last month, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that it was “highly likely” that the NHS would need to administer annual coronavirus vaccines along with the flu shot. Earlier that month, England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty said that the UK “might have to bring a few [restrictions] in next Winter, for example. That is possible because Winter will benefit the virus.”