Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Experts say the next COVID-19 variant is ‘just around the corner’

Story at a glance

  • Some infectious disease experts believe that until more people around the world get vaccinated against COVID-19, more variants are likely to develop.
  • In many countries like South Africa, Bangladesh, Ukraine and India, less than 50 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
  • When not enough people are vaccinated it creates an opportunity for viruses to proliferate and become more virulent, more so than even the current omicron strain.

As the world adjusts to yet another COVID-19 variant and enters the second year of the coronavirus pandemic, some health experts are warning that variants are likely to become a normal occurrence. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautions that new variants are expected to occur but taking steps to reduce the spread of viruses by getting a COVID-19 vaccine, wearing a mask and getting regularly tested are the best ways to slow the emergence of new variants. 

However, vaccination rates are struggling across the world, with many countries like South Africa, Bangladesh, Ukraine and India, vaccinating less than 50 percent of their populations, according to data by Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.  

Andrew Freedman, an academic in infectious diseases at Cardiff University Medical School, recently told CNBC that it’s vital for not just richer, Western countries like the U.S. to get vaccinated, but the whole globe needs to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to prevent new variants from developing. 


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When not enough people are vaccinated it creates an opportunity for viruses to proliferate and become more virulent, more so than even the current omicron strain.  

That creates an incredibly risky world for everyone, as Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, also told CNBC, “this isn’t altruism or aid or anything, this is the global escape strategy from something that we’re all suffering together. Unless we can share out the vaccines and produce enough vaccines for everybody, the next variant is just around the corner.” 

Though there is a possibility that the next variant may not be as severe, as Freedman explained viruses tend to become milder as they evolve, but that’s not always the case. 

“It may well be with future variants that they are even more contagious, they may be milder, but we can’t say that with certainty,” said Freedman. 

There are efforts underway by multiple organizations to get vaccines to countries that desperately need more, including COVAX, a global alliance that supplies COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income nations that would otherwise be unable to afford them.  

Though an analysis by The Washington Post found that COVAX pledged to deliver over 2 billion vaccines worldwide by the end of 2021 but had barely delivered half of that figure. According to the Post, by the end of November COVAX had only delivered 596 million does worldwide. 

However, as the world adjusts to fighting the omicron variant and vaccinating more people, some scientists have also suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic will never fully go away. Many scientists believe the pandemic will become endemic, a state where the COVID-19 virus isn’t completely eradicated but people have gained enough immunity from it through vaccinations and natural infection that there would be significantly less transmission. 


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