Coronavirus variants will soon break through our vaccine defences. They will be following the Laws of Nature as we accelerate their arrival.
So far, it seems we are safe. Of the Kent, Brazilian and South African variants, only the latter comes close to breaking our line of defences. It’s a bleak warning.
What of the vaccines?
All three variants arose before vaccines were introduced so they arose without any selective pressure from the vaccines.
The vaccines are designed to prevent severe COVID-19 disease rather than stop people becoming infected and spreading a new virus which has arisen within the lungs of vaccinated people.
It seems that vaccinated people are spreading less virus, however, what they are spreading will have arisen in the presence of vaccine protection.
That is selective pressure. It accelerates genetic change and delivers new variants.
The strains and variants which the vaccines control are less likely to be spread. Vaccinated people are more likely to be spreading variants which have found a way around the vaccine protection.
Soon, variants which have found a complete way of circumventing vaccine protection will arise. They may already be spreading.
The challenge ahead
Our challenge is to stop those new vaccine-resistant variants multiplying and filling the void left by the current variants which are being suppressed by the vaccines.
We need to do more about what is happening within infected people. Every time the virus spreads from one lung cell to the next, vaccine selective pressure will enhance genetic change. That is where variants arise.
Focusing our actions on the inner R becomes our best protection. Only once new variants exist can they spread between people, which is when we should use the outer R.