RPT: ANALYSIS - Mutated COVID-19 Variants In Unvaccinated Populations Threaten Pandemic Recovery

RPT: ANALYSIS - Mutated COVID-19 Variants in Unvaccinated Populations Threaten Pandemic Recovery

WASHINGTON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 19th June, 2021) The timeline for ending the novel coronavirus pandemic will depend on how soon vaccines can be delivered to unvaccinated populations, especially in developing countries, in order to prevent the further mutation of COVID-19, which risks upending the mass distribution efforts, experts told Sputnik.

US President Joe Biden warned on Friday that unvaccinated people are in growing danger due to the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus, which he said is more easily transmissible, potentially deadlier and particularly dangerous for young people.

"I am less concerned about decreasing antibodies than I am concerned about the populations in the US and globally that are not vaccinated," Dr. Edward Trapido, an epidemiology professor and associate dean for research at the Louisiana State University school of Public Health, told Sputnik. "As long as there are cases anywhere, we are at risk everywhere."

In the US right now, Trapido warned, every state has pockets of people who are not vaccinated.

"When variants occur, they can spread quickly and result in lots of cases among unvaccinated people. Globally there are many populations that have no or few vaccines," Trapido said.

Trapido foresees the pandemic lasting up to 2022, by then downgrading to an endemic. However, he said the recovery timeline could be delayed by international travel, refugees fleeing war and dangerous situations, which may spur the virus to mutate.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization included the Delta strain in its list of the so-called variants of concern as it became prevalent and caused a sharp surge in infections in some countries, especially India, where it was first identified.

Vaccine distribution efforts should focus on Brazil, India, Pakistan, Nepal, countries in South and Central America, among other developing countries, Trapido said.

The Instituto Butantan, a Brazilian biologic research center, said in a statement there are at least 19 variants of coronavirus that have been identified in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, with the P.1 (Amazonian) strain prevailing in 89.9 percent of cases, followed by the strain B.1.1.7, first detected in the United Kingdom, which accounts for 4.2 percent.

The COVID-19 related infection and death rates have dropped significantly low in the United States since about March, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), but it does not indicate the risk for another wave is over.

"We are getting closer to an epidemic in the US, and will probably get to being endemic, like flu," Trapido said. "However, we may see a surge in the winter- as people spend less time outdoors."

Biden announced on Friday that the United States administered over 300 million doses of coronavirus vaccines over the last 150 days with 15 states and the District of Columbia reaching a 70 percent vaccination rate. He said that existing vaccines offer sufficient protection to fully inoculated.

Dr. Paulo Verardi, a professor of virology and vaccinology at the University of Connecticut, told Sputnik countries need to have at least two-thirds, if not three-quarters or more of their populations vaccinated to achieve a level of immunity that would disrupt cycles of transmission effectively, and therefore prevent additional waves of infection.

However, he also cautioned about the new variants emerging around the world.

"We now have more transmissible variants of concern added to the equation, and we still have to monitor the durability of vaccine-induced protective immunity," Verardi said. "Consequently, we still have to be very cautious and vigilant, even here in the US"

Verardi underscored that it is important work to make vaccines available to people around the world, including low-income countries, as soon as possible, because it is the only way to control the pandemic and avoid future surges of cases.

Last week, the G7 countries pledged to donate over one billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccines to the lowest-income economies. The United States had previously pledged to donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the world, aside from the 80 million doses it is beginning to deliver to countries already.

Russia's Sputnik V vaccine has been approved in 67 countries since the drug's registration last August. According to the latest analysis of data on the post-vaccination infection percentage among 3.8 million vaccinated Russians, the vaccine shows 97.6% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 cases.

Russia and China combined have donated about 15 million doses worldwide, but they each are expected to provide more than 600 million doses.

There have been more than 177 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 3.8 million deaths caused by the disease around the world since the outbreak began in early 2020, according to the WHO. More than 2.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered globally, the organization revealed in data.