Copenhagen – With new variants dashing hopes of achieving herd community, the vaccines’ ability to end the Covid-19 pandemic is doubtful, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Europe Regional Director Dr Hans Kluge.
Health officials must “anticipate how to gradually adapt our vaccination strategy,” amid the possibility that the virus would be around for many years, Dr Kluge told reporters on Friday (Sept 10).
Dr Kluge noted earlier in May that the “pandemic will be over once we reach 70 per cent minimum coverage in vaccination.”
When asked if this was the same target to date, Dr Kluge admitted that the situation has changed due to new, more transmissible variants, such as Delta, reported AFP.
“I think it brings us to the point that the aim of a vaccination is first and foremost to prevent more serious disease, and that’s mortality,” he said.
“If we consider that Covid will continue to mutate and remain with us, the way influenza is, then we should anticipate how to gradually adapt our vaccination strategy to endemic transmission and gather really precious knowledge about the impact of additional jabs,” Dr Kluge added.
Epidemiologists now deem reaching herd immunity through the use of vaccines alone to be unrealistic.
However, vaccines are still crucial to curb transmissions and contain the virus.
According to WHO, the Delta variant is 60 per cent more transmissible than the previous dominant variant Alpha and twice as contagious as the original virus.
When a virus is more contagious, the bar for reaching herd immunity is higher.
Still, achieving high vaccination rates are crucial to “unloading pressure from healthcare systems” that desperately need to treat other diseases that have been pushed to the backburner by Covid-19, said Dr Kluge.
On Thursday (Sept 9), the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced a new coronavirus variant known as “Mu,” which may be a cause for concern.
The variant has the potential of becoming a variant of concern due to its higher resistance against the antibodies in vaccines.
It is currently present in 39 countries worldwide and 49 states in the United States.
WHO has four variants of concern, Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, and five variants of interests, Eta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda and Mu./TISG