Covid not over, next pandemic could be more lethal: expert

While the Covid-19 crisis is not over yet with the new super mutant Omicron spreading to 38 countries, the next pandemic could be even more lethal, said the creator of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine Professor Sarah Gilbert.

Delivering the 44th Richard Dimbleby Lecture, Gilbert cautioned that it is increasingly obvious that “this pandemic is not done with us”, and vaccines could also prove to be less effective against the Omicron variant, the BBC reported.

Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Oxford whose team developed the Covid vaccine now used in 170 countries, said the scientific advances made and knowledge gained in research fighting against the coronavirus must not be lost.

She also stressed on the need for more funding on pandemic preparedness.

“This will not be the last time a virus threatens our lives and our livelihoods. The truth is, the next one could be worse. It could be more contagious, or more lethal, or both,” Gilbert was quoted as saying.

“We cannot allow a situation where we have gone through all we have gone through, and then find that the enormous economic losses we have sustained mean that there is still no funding for pandemic preparedness.

“The advances we have made, and the knowledge we have gained, must not be lost,” she said.

So far it is known that the Omicron variant’s spike protein contained mutations known to increase the transmissibility of the virus.

“But there are additional changes that may mean antibodies induced by the vaccines, or by infection with other variants, may be less effective at preventing infection with Omicron.”

Moreover, Omicron is said to appear less dangerous than previous variants like Delta, which has claimed more than 5 million lives, so far.

However, Gilbert said reduced protection against infection and mild disease would not necessarily mean reduced protection against severe illness and death.

“Until we know more, we should be cautious, and take steps to slow down the spread of this new variant.”

The UK recorded 86 new cases of the Omicron variant on Sunday, taking the total so far to 246. In total, 43,992 cases and 54 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test were recorded on Sunday.