Dr William Schaffner, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Centre told the American news channel that unvaccinated people pose a greater risk in the fight against coronavirus than just to their own health.
“Unvaccinated people are potential variant factories,” he said. “The more unvaccinated people there are, the more opportunities for the virus to multiply.”
As a virus mutates, its genes undergo changes, leading to variations in the antigens. Since vaccines work on the immune system which identifies the virus through these antigens, several experts in the past have also raised alarm over potential virus mutations that may be able to break through the protection created by vaccines.
Dr Schaffner said if infections continue to spread among the unvaccinated, it can hamper the pandemic response. “When it does, it mutates and it could throw off a variant mutation that is even more serious down the road,” Dr Schaffner was quoted as saying by CNN.
Similar concerns were raised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) last month. “The more we allow the virus to spread, the more opportunity the virus has to change,” it said.
The coronavirus has already seen several mutations, with the Alpha variant first sequenced in the UK in December last year and a Beta variant emerging in South Africa in October, while the Gamma variant appeared in mid-November in Brazil.
The Delta variant – the latest variant of concern – was first spotted in India during the ferocious second wave that brought the country’s healthcare sector to its knees. The variant, believed to be more contagious than the ones before it, has already been found in nearly 100 countries, with the UN health agency on Friday sending out a warning that the world is in a “very dangerous period” of this pandemic.
Scientists fear if the virus continues to mutate, the potential new variants will be even more infectious and will pose a greater risk.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies