'When it comes to variants our best bet is still to get as many people vaccinated as possible'

There has been talk of a new Yorkshire variant of Covid-19. Watch out, it’s bound to be a tough one, with flat-cap spike protein and whippet in tow!

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 6:00 am
Buxton Covid Test centre

In all seriousness we don’t know enough about it yet, I’m sure details will emerge. But with our hugely successful vaccine programme, new variants are always the worry, whether coming from mutations locally or from India, South Africa or Brazil. Whilst ever the virus is passing through large numbers of unvaccinated people and reproducing at scale there is always the risk it mutates.

So, the higher the number of people catching the virus, the higher the chances of mutation. Mutations happen as the virus multiples inside our cells. In a way they are mistakes in the translation of the virus’s DNA as it reproduces. Most times these mistakes mean nothing or are harmful to the virus, but sometimes it gives it a new advantage. When this happens this version of the virus then starts to dominate, as it has an advantage over our immune system’s response.

The vaccines we’ve all been getting are set to prime our immune system against specific strains of the virus. Even if it mutates to a new variant, mostly the changes are so small that our vaccine-primed immune system will still respond well. But there is a risk that a significant change means the vaccines we have won’t set our immune system up to deal with that variant.

Having said that it is likely any vaccine gives our immune system a boost against all variants. It appears at the moment that the new variants may be better at spreading and infecting us, but the vaccines we have been giving are still good at protecting us. It certainly seems that way with the Indian variant.

Our best bet still remains get as many people vaccinated as possible. Even if you are not at high risk, large volumes of unvaccinated people give the virus opportunity to mutate.

So, if we want to get back to pubs or concerts we need to help everyone take up their vaccine. With over 30 million people vaccinated, we know minor side effects are common and serious problems extremely rare. The only alternative is lockdown, that works too, but I’m not sure we can take another.