Expert calls unvaccinated people ‘variant factories’ as Delta continues to evolve
- While all viruses mutate and some mutations even weaken the virus, mutations like the variants of concern, including the Delta variant, could disrupt the pandemic response.
An infectious diseases expert has said that unvaccinated individuals do not merely risk their own health but are potential ‘factories’ of coronavirus variants, according to CNN. Countries are running against time to vaccinate people against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) as highly transmissible variants are rapidly spreading across the world.
The lack of vaccine availability in low- and lower-middle-income countries, along with vaccine hesitancy across the world, has been working as an impediment in suppressing the emergence of new virus variants and deadly mutations. Dr William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said that the higher the number of unvaccinated people, the more opportunities the virus will have to multiply, reported CNN.
While all viruses mutate and some mutations even weaken the virus, mutations like the variants of concern, including the Delta variant, could disrupt the pandemic response. "When it does, it mutates, and it could throw off a variant mutation that is even more serious down the road," Schaffner was quoted by CNN as saying.
According to experts, a mutant version has to replicate itself to become a variant and unvaccinated groups provide that opportunity. Since viruses that don’t spread cannot mutate, maximum vaccination coverage is an effective tool to stop mutations from becoming a variant of concern. "The more we allow the virus to spread, the more opportunity the virus has to change," the World Health Organization (WHO) said last month.
The Delta variant has already been reported from nearly 100 countries and the UN health agency on Friday warned that the world is in a “very dangerous period” of this pandemic. WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing that the Delta variant is continuing to evolve and mutate, suggesting constant evaluation and careful adjustment of the public health response.
"I have urged leaders across the world to work together to ensure that by this time next year, 70% of all people in every country are vaccinated [against Covid-19]," said the WHO chief.
The Delta variant has further mutated to form the Delta plus, characterised by B.1.617.2 variant acquiring another mutation, K417N, also found in the B.1.351 or Beta variant of concern. India has classified it as a "variant of concern", saying the mutation spreads more easily, binds more easily to lung cells and is potentially resistant to monoclonal antibody therapy.