British scientists warn of urgent need for action on vaccines to avoid autumn wave of Covid | Coronavirus

Health authorities must act urgently to prepare for an autumn that could see new waves of Covid-19 cases spread across the UK.

That’s the stark warning from scientists and doctors after figures last week revealed another dramatic rise in the number of cases. More than 2 million people across Britain were found to be infected for the week ending June 24, an increase of more than 30% on the previous week.

And while most experts said they expected the current surge – driven by the Omicron BA4 and BA5 variants of the virus – to peak within weeks, they also warned it would inevitably be followed by another wave this fall. “Our current planning assumptions are that we will see at least a wave [of Covid] in the autumn-winter period once we get through the current wave that we are currently in, ”said Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency.

This view has been supported by virologist Professor Lawrence Young of the University of Warwick. “We need to prepare now for the fall and winter months, when colder weather will push people indoors, increasing the risk of infection, not only with new variants of Covid but also with other viral respiratory infections.”

A key element of these preparations will be the selection of vaccines that will be best suited to counter the next big wave of the disease. Moderna, Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies are all working on vaccines that target different variants of Omicron in different ways.

“However, it will be up to the government to decide which of these versions is best for the country,” said Professor Adam Finn from the University of Bristol. “Officials are likely to be swayed not so much by the data that shows which formulation shows the most promise for tackling new variants, but by which company seems best able to deliver the right number of vaccines on time. “

This point was supported by Professor Francois Balloux, Director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London. “Obviously, if you wait until the last moment, you’ll have the best chance of designing a vaccine that is best able to fight the most prevalent variant, but you don’t want to risk production not delivering enough doses in time. “

However, Covid-19 is not the only health threat looming on the horizon. Scientists have warned that the pandemic measures – in particular the imposition of the lockdown – which were used to control Covid-19 are likely to have made the public vulnerable to other illnesses such as flu.

Finn said: “Basically, we haven’t gotten infected with the flu for two years now so we haven’t developed immunity to it.

He added: “As a result, we are now more vulnerable to flu and we are likely to see some, possibly significant, winter spikes this year. Indeed, the flu could prove to be a much bigger problem this winter than Covid-19. For this reason, I think it is crucial that we give the fall Covid booster shot at the same time as we give the annual flu shot for the over 65s.

Other factors that could affect the nation’s well-being this winter will include the cost of living crisis. “This could inadvertently help reduce the spread of the Covid-19 virus if people are less able to spend time in crowded indoor leisure spaces such as shopping malls and cinemas,” said virologist Julian Tang of the University of Leicester. “On the other hand, an inability to heat homes, coupled with increased virus circulation, will exacerbate hospitalization rates from the disease.”

Stephen Griffin from the University of Leeds also insisted that a comprehensive plan for continued vaccination was needed for the UK, one which particularly targeted younger age groups.

“Although much less frequent than in adults, it can be expected – based on the previous wave – that the very high prevalence of Omicron will unfortunately cause a considerable number of juvenile hospitalizations and long Covid, including the impact on a young life is soul destroying. ”

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Edward L. Robinett