Individuals who are not vaccinated against COVID do not only risk their own health but are also “potential variant factories” who could jeopardize other’s wellbeing, a top infectious disease expert has warned. Speaking to CNN, Dr William Schaffner, a professor in the division of Infectious Disease at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre clarified that the only source of the new COVID variant is the body of an infected person. Therefore, he said, the more unvaccinated people, the more opportunities for the SARS-CoV-2 to multiply.
Since its outbreak in December 2019, the coronavirus has spiralled to infect 184,247,578 people, out of whom 3,987,466 have lost their lives while 168,626,098 have recovered. The pathogen has also mutated into Alpha, Beta, Gama and Delta variants, which are more transmissible than the original strain. The most recent Delta variant has already affected 98 countries and continues to evolve, according to United Nations.
According to Dr Schaffner, every time a virus mutates it has the chances of throwing off a variant mutation that is “even more serious” down the road. He further explained that most mutations do not affect the virus and some can even weaken it. But sometimes viruses also mutate randomly, which could give them advantages over their previous version like transmissibility or more efficient replication.
These viruses with an advantage will outcompete other viruses, and will eventually make up the majority of virus particles infecting someone. If that infected person passes the virus to someone else, they'll be passing along the mutant version. However, this mutated version should replicate and an unvaccinated person provides the perfect opportunity for the virus to replicate. The present vaccines provide immunisation against all the variants but this could change anytime as the pathogen continues to make alterations in its spike proteins.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that in the coming months the Delta variant of COVID-19 will become the dominant variant of the coronavirus globally. In its COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update, the UN agency informed that as of June 29, 2021, 96 countries have reported cases of the Delta variant. However, the WHO also added that this is an “underestimate” as sequencing capacities needed to identify variants are limited. “A number of these (96) countries are attributing surges in infections and hospitalisations to this variant,” the WHO said.