ATHENS – A warning from the Greek-American CEO of the Pfizer pharmaceutical company that is a major supplier of COVID-19 vaccines that variants are coming they won't stop is bringing worry, including in Greece.
Pfizer chief Albert Bourla has said scientists at his company think a vaccine-resistant variant is likely to emerge with signs that the current Delta Variant is affecting the fully vaccinated while more dangerous for those not inoculated.
“Every time that the variant appears in the world, our scientists are getting their hands around it,” Bourla told Fox News’ America’s Newsroom. “And they are researching to see if this variant can escape the protection of our vaccine. We haven’t identified any yet but we believe that it is likely that one day, one of them will emerge,” he said.
But he said that Pfizer could produce updated versions of its jab to combat a variant within three months of its discovery although other reports said the current versions last only six months and a booster will be needed after that.
“We have built a process that within 95 days from the day that we identify a variant as a variant of concern, we will be able to have a vaccine tailor-made against this variant,” he said.
In Greece, the rapid spread of the Delta Variant from India making up more than 80 percent of cases that hit a record 4,608 on Aug. 24 led University of Athens Epidemiology Professor Athina Linou to recommend people wear two masks.
“The mutation is very aggressive and we need to protect ourselves. Everyone must wear a mask everywhere,” she told Mega TV.
Laboratory experiments by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed wearing a cloth mask over a three-ply medical procedure mask, knotting the ear loops and tucking material close to the face is advisable.
THE THIRD SHOT
With the New Democracy government's attention on a summer of wildfires that swept the country, and many people out of Athens and major cities on August holidays, the Eleftheria (Freedom) vaccination campaign has stalled.
Only half of the country's population of 10.7 million people has been fully vaccinated, far short of the 70 percent that health authorities first said would slow the pandemic and bring immunity, although one member of the government's advisory panel of doctors and scientists said it's 80-85 percent.
With a hard core anti-vaxxer movement and people defying health measures, not wearing masks or staying apart, continuing the spread the virus Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis still hasn't made shots mandatory for all, apart from health care workers.
Even tourism workers don't have to be vaccinated, including on islands where all visitors must be COVID-free, but the Delta Variant a catalyst that was unforseen and a dangerous game changer in the battle against the pandemic.
The government had touted vaccines as the answer but a study by researchers in Britain, where the AstraZeneca version is made, showed all the vaccines effectiveness begins to wane after six months although no reason was given, reported the Reuters news agency.
That means a third booster shot of most versions will be needed, and a second from the Johnson & Johnson variety from the United States that's is use, along with Pfizer-BioNTech, and the American-made Moderna the major brands.
After five to six months, the effectiveness of the Pfizer jab after a second dose fell from 88 to 74 percent, an analysis of data collected in Britain’s ZOE Covid study showed. although earlier it was said it was more than 90-95 percent at first.
For the AstraZeneca vaccine, effectiveness fell from 77 percent to 67 percent after four to five months although vaccines can make it less likely someone infected will become ill, be hospitalized or perish.
Previous analysis of data suggested that vaccines provide protection for at least six months but protection could fall below 50 percent for older people and healthcare workers by the winter, Tim Spector, Principal Investigator for the ZOE COVID study, said.
“It’s bringing into focus this need for some action. We can’t just sit by and see the protectiveness slowly waning whilst cases are still high and the chance of infection still high as well,” Spector told BBC television.
Health care workers in Greece are the first to be required to be fully vaccinated or face unpaid suspensions but some 10 percent or more in a variety of fields have refused despite being on the front line of the battle against the pandemic, among the most susceptible to be infected.