New variants could evade COVID-19 shot within a year, many epidemiologists say

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About two-thirds of epidemiologists say further mutation of the SARS-CoV-2 virus could render current COVID-19 vaccines ineffective within a year, according to a small survey the People's Vaccine Alliance released March 30.

The People's Vaccine Alliance is a coalition of more than 50 organizations aiming to accelerate vaccinations in developing countries. The alliance surveyed 77 epidemiologists, virologists and infection disease specialists from 28 countries between Feb. 17 and March 25. 

Four survey findings:

1. In total, 66.2 percent of respondents said they thought it would be a year or less before the virus mutates enough for most first-generation vaccines to be ineffective.

2. Eighteen percent said the world has two years or more before this occurs.

3. About 7.8 percent of respondents said mutations would never render current vaccines ineffective, and another 7.8 percent said they were not confident predicting this timeline.

4. Eighty-three percent of respondents said persistent low vaccine coverage in many countries would make it more likely for mutations to occur.

"Unless we vaccinate the world, we leave the playing field open to more and more mutations, which could churn out variants that could evade our current vaccines and require booster shots to deal with them," Gregg Gonsalves, associate professor of epidemiology at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., said in a news release. 

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