Scientists ‘guess’ future mutations of Covid to create new vaccines

Scientists ‘guess’ future mutations of Covid to create new vaccines

Scientists are helping to “second guess” future mutations of coronavirus in order to create new potential vaccines, the chairman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce has said.

Asked whether it was possible to produce a vaccine that was comprehensive at tackling new mutations, Clive Dix told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Yes, absolutely.

“The UK is properly at the forefront of surveying all of these variants.

“We have actually sequenced nearly 50% of all the virus that has been sequenced in this pandemic at the Sanger centre in Cambridge.

“Taking that data and having scientists look very seriously at what’s emerging – where the mutations are occurring, what they might do to the protein – we can kind of second guess some mutations that haven’t even occurred yet and we can go ahead and make those.

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“And that’s part of the collaboration – we’ll make libraries of future vaccines, just small amounts, enough to then, if it does occur, do a quick clinical study to see that it works and then start manufacturing.”

He said studies of coronavirus would help the country and the world get “ahead of the game” on vaccine-evading new variants.

Asked whether there could be a mutation that could escape the current vaccines on offer, he told Today: “Of course – when it will occur and whether it will occur is one thing.

“That’s what happened with flu, we get these pandemic threats with flu.

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“We should learn from flu… I believe this virus will be very similar – it will last a long time, it will be travelling around the world in different places, it will be endemic in certain countries and we need to do that work, yes.

“I think there is the possibility but we will be ahead of the game.

“We’re not going to wait for it to happen – we now have capabilities in the UK to be responsive and that capability won’t just be for the use of the UK of course.

“Once we’ve done it, it will actually help the whole world because it will be part of that whole surveillance and reaction.”

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Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has committed to setting out a “road map” later this month for easing restrictions in England as he faces pressure from Conservative MPs to relax the current lockdown once the most vulnerable have been vaccinated.

Downing Street confirmed on Friday that the vaccine programme planned to reach all those aged 50 and over, as well as adults aged 16-65 in an at-risk group, by May.

Government figures showed that more than 10.9 million first doses of the vaccines have been administered, as of Friday.

A further 1,014 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Friday, and there were another 19,114 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

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