Epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant, best known for his work on eradicating smallpox, on Thursday expressed his concerns over new variants of the coronavirus and stressed the need for a backup plan to work alongside vaccinations in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
“I’m quite worried about the variants. We seem to be getting not only many variants but variants of concern almost every week,” Brilliant told CNN’s Erin Burnett, as daily new infections in the United States plateau around the 60,000 mark and public health experts warn that yet another devastating wave of the virus could be about to crash down on the country.
Brilliant noted how studies have shown that a South African strain of the virus reportedly renders the AstraZeneca vaccine 90% ineffective, a Brazilian variant can allow reinfection, and how one that emerged in the United Kingdom is more transmissible.
“I do think we have to have a backup plan in addition to vaccinating everybody as fast as we can,” said Brilliant. “I think we have to get really much better at outbreak containment, detecting of diseases, finding them, isolating them, and vaccinating them with the vaccine that matches the variant that our genomics tells us they have.”
Burnett asked if booster shots currently in development to tackle the variants would be enough, or if yet more vaccines would be required.
“I think it could be that the booster does it. I’m hopeful that there’ll be boosters that vaccinate us and immunize us for everything since the last vaccine we had,” Brilliant replied. “But, in addition, we will have dozens of vaccines and some will match better against certain variants.”
Effectively matching the right vaccine to the right strain that is circulating in a given location “will become more and more important” in future months, Brilliant predicted.
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