Future pandemics might be more devastating to humans than the present Covid issue, according to the scientist behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, Covishield, which is provided in India to guard against COVID-19.
What could this mean for the travel and hospitality industries? What changes do these industries need to make for them to not get affected in future the way they got affected now? What steps will these industries take to ensure they are able to cope better in case of future pandemics?
Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology at the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, also warned that vaccines may be less effective against the new Omicron variant, but added that reduced protection against infection and mild disease does not necessarily imply reduced protection against severe illness and death.
Gilbert, who was named a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II for her crucial role in the development of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, said the additional money for pandemic preparation was needed to avoid gains in the area from being lost.
“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,” Prof. Gilbert said
She stated that the spike protein in the Omicron form of the new coronavirus had changes known to boost the virus’s transmissibility.
“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. Until we know more, we should be cautious, and take steps to slow down the spread of this new variant,” she said.
Gilbert worked on vaccinations for more than ten years before COVID-19, employing antigens from malaria and influenza. The 59-year-old specialist was presenting the 44th Richard Dimbleby Lecture, named after a veteran British journalist and broadcaster and given yearly by prominent speakers.
On Sunday, the United Kingdom reported 86 additional instances of the novel Omicron type, which was initially discovered in South Africa, bringing the total number of Omicron cases in the country to 246.