Covid-19 ‘could mutate and leave vaccine useless’ warns top Oxford doctor
A Covid professor has warned virus mutations could render a vaccine useless if it changes the behaviour of the virus.
Richard Moxon, founder of the Oxford Vaccine Group, stressed fears about the mutations on a vaccine are "unfounded" but added that it will be monitored "very carefully."
Professor Moxon said the virus has already gone through several changes since it was first reported in November 2019.
None of these changes have stopped the production of the vaccine, he told Channel 4, but refused to rule the scenario out on Coronavirus Vaccine: Is it Safe?
Speaking to the programme, Professor Moxton said we will "never know when a change in the genetic code of the virus" will alter the way it infects humans.
He said: "We're going to have to monitor the virus's behaviour, its evolution, very carefully.
"We'll never know when a change in the genetic code of the virus might suddenly change the behaviour of the virus in a way that either causes more severe disease or, as a possibility – completely unfounded at the moment – a problem for vaccines.
"This would be because the Spike protein has changed enough that the antibody responses and the other immune responses to it are no longer able to cope."
Vaccines protect against disease by teaching the immune system how to fight off the pathogen.
It creates antibodies – disease-fighting proteins made and stored to fight off invaders in the future by latching onto their spike proteins.
If the vaccine is unable to recognise the proteins because it has mutated, it means the body may struggle to attack a virus the second time and lead to a second infection.
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Professor Moxon, who wasn't involved in making Oxford's Covid vaccine but founded the group behind the experimental jab – is also worried about how world-wide vaccination will be achieved.
He said: "We have got to take on board the fact that our vaccines, which is the most important tool we have to fight the disease, needs to get to everyone in the globe.
"And that's a very, very tall order for all kinds of economic, societal and other reasons.
"I would hope that, to be conservative, the wearing of masks, much, if not all of the time, will begin to recede as common practice as early as the autumn of 2021."
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