pisaniferry118_NelsonAlmeidaAFPGettyImages_vaccine production NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images

A Global Pandemic Alarm Bell

The appearance of mutant versions of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Brazil has given the world no choice but to design and implement a comprehensive global strategy. So, what's stopping that from happening?

PARIS – Seen from Europe, Asia, or even North America, Manaus, the capital of the Brazilian state of Amazonas, is as remote as can be. Yet the 501Y.V3 variant of the coronavirus recently detected there has already been identified as a global threat, because its emergence in a city where two-thirds of the population was already infected in the spring of 2020 suggests that acquired immunity does not protect against it.

Scientists speculate whether 501Y.V3 may also thwart some of the existing vaccines. Even if the RNA-based vaccines can be quickly modified, the risk of ineffectiveness just when mass vaccination is being rolled out is extremely scary.

Viruses, of course, mutate all the time. While many mutations are innocuous, dangerous ones regularly appear. The larger the population that is infected at any time, the higher the probability that a hazardous variant, or possibly a new strain, will appear. Each person is a potential lab for these mutations. With some 600,000 new coronavirus infections identified daily, there are currently several million such labs in operation around the world. So it is a certainty that more mutations will occur.

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