Scientists are helping “guess” future coronavirus mutations in order to develop new potential vaccines, said the chairman of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce.
When asked if it would be possible to make a vaccine that would do extensive work on combating new mutations, Clive Dix told BBC Radio 4’s Today, “Yes, absolutely.
“The UK is leading the way in examining all of these variants.
“We actually sequenced almost 50% of the total virus that was sequenced in this pandemic at the Sanger Center in Cambridge.
“If we take this data and the scientists take what is emerging very seriously – where the mutations are occurring, what they could do with the protein – we can guess some mutations that haven’t even occurred and move on and they do those .
“And that’s part of the collaboration – we’re going to create libraries of future vaccines, just small enough, then, if that happens, we do a quick clinical study to see if it works and then start manufacturing. “
He said studies on coronavirus would help the country and the world stay “ahead of the game” on vaccine-evading new variants.
When asked today if there might be a mutation that might escape the vaccines currently on offer, he said today, “Of course – when it will and if it will occur is one thing.
“That’s what happened to flu, we get these pandemic threats with flu.
“We should learn from the flu … I think this virus will be very similar – it will take a long time, it will travel around the world in different places, it will be endemic in certain countries and we will have to do this work, yes. We will have to do this work.
“I think there is a possibility, but we will be ahead of the game.
“We’re not going to wait for it to happen. We now have functions in the UK to respond to that and of course those functions are not just for UK use.”
“Once we do it, it will actually help the whole world because it will be part of this whole surveillance and response.”
In the meantime, the Prime Minister has pledged to draw up a “road map” later this month to ease restrictions in England as he faces pressure from Conservative MPs to relax the current lockdown once the most vulnerable are vaccinated.
Downing Street confirmed on Friday that the vaccination program should reach everyone aged 50 and over and adults between 16 and 65 in a risk group by May.
Government figures showed that more than 10.9 million first doses of the vaccines had been given by Friday.
Another 1,014 people died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 on Friday, and there were another 19,114 laboratory-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.