British scientists warn of urgent need for action on vaccines to prevent autumn Covid wave

Health authorities need to act urgently to prepare for autumn, which could see further waves of Covid-19 cases spread across the UK.

That’s the clear warning from scientists and doctors after last week’s figures revealed another dramatic jump in cases. More than 2 million people across the UK were found infected for the week ending June 24, an increase of more than 30% over the previous week.

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

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

A major component of these preparations will be the selection of those vaccines that are best suited to counteract the next big wave of the disease. Modern, Pfizer and other drug companies are all working on vaccines that target different Omicron variants in different ways.

“However, the government will decide which of these versions will be the best for a country,” said Professor Adam Finn of Bristol University. “Officials are likely to be influenced not so much by data that shows which formulation looks the most promising to deal with the new variants, as by the company that looks most capable of delivering the right number of vaccines on time.”

This point was supported by Prof Francois Balloux, director of the Genetics Institute at University College London. “Obviously, if you wait until the last minute, you’ll have the best chance of designing a vaccine that’s best able to treat the most widespread variant, but you don’t want to risk production not delivering enough doses on time.”

However, Covid-19 is not the only health threat looming on the horizon. Scientists have warned that pandemic measures – particularly the imposition of a blockade – that were used to control Covid-19 are likely to have left the public vulnerable to other diseases such as the flu.

Finn said: “Basically, we haven’t been infecting each other with the flu for two years now and so we haven’t built immunity against it.”

He added: “As a result, we are now more vulnerable to flu and we are likely to see winter peaks, possibly large, this year. Indeed, flu may turn out to be a much bigger problem this winter than Covid-19. Therefore, I think , that it is important that we give the fall Covid booster vaccine at the same time as we give the annual flu vaccine for the over-65s. “

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

Stephen Griffin of Leeds University also urged that a comprehensive plan for continued vaccination is needed for the UK, one that was aimed particularly at younger age groups.

“Although much less common than in adults, we can expect – based on the previous wave – that Omicron’s very high prevalence will unfortunately lead to a considerable number of juvenile hospitalizations and long Covid, whose impact on young life is soul-destroying.”

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