The co-creator of the Oxford vaccine warns that the next pandemic could be even more lethal
"The truth is, it's possible that the next one will be even worse. Professor Sarah Gilbert speculated that it could be more contagious, fatal, or both.
LONDON, UK — On Monday, one of the researchers behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine expressed concern that the next pandemic could be much deadlier than the present one.
Professor Sarah Gilbert of Oxford University, who received acclaim for her part in generating a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine in less than a year, advised against complacency in the face of future threats.
“This is not the last time a virus threatens our lives and livelihoods,” she said in an Oxford University talk that will be broadcast on Monday night by the BBC. “The reality is that the next one could be even worse. It could be more contagious, more dangerous, or both at the same time.”
She stated in earlier statements to the news media that the global epidemic demonstrates the necessity of being ready for the next health emergency: “The advances we have achieved, and the information we have gained, must not be squandered.”
“Vaccine developers should not now be expected to drift back into patient and under-funded obscurity,” Gilbert added.
More than 5 million individuals have died as a result of Covid-19 over the world, including nearly 800,000 in the United States.
Despite promising trial data, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was licenced in the United Kingdom in December 2020 and is now used in more than 50 nations, but it has yet to be approved in the United States.
In April, Vice President Joe Biden said that 60 million doses of the vaccine would be sent to foreign countries.
On the current threat posed by the growing Omicron variety — which, according to NBC News, has been found in at least 16 U.S. states — Gilbert explained that its alterations are known to increase transmissibility, whereas immunity established from vaccines or earlier infection may be less effective.
“However, as we’ve observed in the past, reduced protection against infection and mild disease does not always imply reduced protection against severe disease and death,” she explained.
According to Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Delta variety of the virus is by far the most prevalent in the United States, accounting for 99.9% of infections.
In July, Gilbert co-authored “Vaxxers: The Inside Story of the Oxford AstraZeneca Vaccine and the Race Against the Virus,” a book with Professor Catherine Green on the vaccine’s development.
Gilbert was giving the annual Richard Dimbleby Lecture, which is named after a pioneering BBC broadcaster who passed away in 1965 and in which a business, science, or political expert addresses a current subject.
Previous speakers have included Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Christine Lagarde, the head of the European Central Bank, and Bill Gates.