Amid the European Union’s slow vaccine rollout, Dr Muhammad Munir of the University of Lancaster said when it comes to halting the coronavirus pandemic, “nobody is safe until all are safe”. The scientist said that partial inoculations drives the “survivability of the virus so that it has to mutate”. Referring to claims of EU vaccine nationalism, author and columnist for The Spectator Mathew Lynn said: “The EU has itself fired the first shots in the vaccine wars, permitting Italy to block the export of 250,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab to Australia. It turns out that when it comes to petty nationalism, the EU leads the world.”
Many scientists warn if only select countries manage to vaccinate their populations, this risks creating conditions for the pathogen to evolve into deadly new mutant strains in other non-vaccinated countries.
The virologist from the University of Lancaster said this was because large swathes of global populations that remain unvaccinated could act as reservoirs where “mutants can emerge that can evade the immunity which means that an already vaccinated population in a developed nation can become re-infected”.
There is a distinct danger that under-vaccinated populations could set the conditions for accelerated evolution of the Covid 19 pathogen into a dangerous variant that over-rides the efficacy of the current vaccines.
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Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Munir said: “Covid-19 is a transboundary infection which means nobody is safe until all are safe.
“With the current vaccine nationalism, developed nations are vaccinating their adults which are least impacted while ignoring elderly and vulnerable communities in developing countries.
“This attitude will only prolong the pandemic and wouldn’t help any countries as if the disease would be lingering within deep pockets of Africa and Asia, the threats would be equally hanging for the rest of the world.
“The best way forward to protect deaths, negative impact and economies are to prioritise vaccination of severely impacted communities around the world, not just in developed nations, including frontline health workers, vulnerable and elderly people.”
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Referring to the possibility of a mutation that overrides vaccination efforts in the UK, Dr Munir added: “The longer we take to vaccinate the world’s population, the higher the chances for the virus to mutate and emerge into a version that is either highly contagious or could weaken the immunity induced by the vaccine.
“The partial immunity or spotted immunisation pose a pressure on the virus and for the survivability of the virus, so that it has to mutate.
“These random mutations are evident since the start of the pandemic.
“Therefore, there is a need for global co-operation, investment, and support for additional vaccines to bring forward innovations and to provide better vaccines to safeguard the world altogether.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged wealthier nations to ensure vaccines are available for the world’s poorest countries.
Director of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We need to prevent vaccine nationalism.
“Whilst there is a wish amongst leaders to protect their own people first, the response to this pandemic has to be collective.”