Too early to judge if Covid-19 mutation in minks can impact vaccine: WHO chief scientist
Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization Soumya Swaminathan said on Friday it was too early to decide whether the coronavirus mutation found in the farmed mink population in Denmark could impact the efficacy of vaccines.
Denmark, a major mink fur exporter, has said it may need to kill up to 17 million minks over the fear of the new mutation spreading back to humans.
“We need to wait and see what the implications are, but I don’t think we should come to any conclusions whether this particular mutation is going to impact vaccine efficacy or not. We don’t have any evidence at the moment that it would,” Swaminathan told a virtual press briefing.
The coronavirus mutations in minks need to be studied properly before experts can say if there can be any complications and what kind, Maria Van Kerkhove, Covid-19 Technical Lead at WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said.
“What we understand is the minks have been infected with contact from humans, it circulates in the mink and then it could pass back to humans. So there’s always a concern when you have circulation and transmission from humans to animals and then from animals to humans. So there is a number of activities that are ongoing to understand the situation in Denmark,” Van Kerkhove said.
According to the expert, mutations are normal and experts have been monitoring all changes in the virus since the beginning.
“In this situation, there is a suggestion that some of these mutations may have some implications, but we need to do the proper studies to evaluate this. and that is ongoing right now with colleagues at the SSI in Denmark as well as our international working group,” Van Kerkhove said.
What the study needs is more sequences to examine, the expert said.
“As this virus continues to circulate the globe, as we see it in mink, in different populations, those sequences need to be shared because they need to be evaluated, they need to be studied, they need to be discussed,” Van Kerkhove said.
There is no evidence yet that this particular mutation behaves differently from others, Michael J. Ryan, the executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said.
“It may have a slightly different signature, but it is still the same virus. What we have to evaluate over time is whether this virus has any difference in transmission or clinical severity or whether there are any implications for diagnostics or vaccines. But we’re a long, long way away from making any determination of that kind,” Ryan said.