The UK government’s SAGE group has claimed in a new paper that it is a “realistic possibility” that a new COVID variant could end up with a morbidity rate of over 35%, arguing the government should consider drastic measures like the vaccination or culling of animals.
The research paper, published on Friday by the UK government as part of transparency efforts, outlined a number of scenarios for the future of COVID variants. Four scenarios were considered, including the possibility of a vaccine-resistant and drug-resistant variant. The most shocking however, was “Scenario One,” which predicted a situation where a new variant causes “severe disease in a greater proportion of the population.” Death rates suggested in this scenario could be between 10%, like SARS, or even as high as 35%, like MERS.
SAGE said that the chance of this happening was “realistic,” and suggested that the government should implement severe measures to stop this from happening. These recommendations included animal vaccinations or cullings, regular booster shots for the vaccine in humans, and clear restrictions in travel within the UK and to and from other countries.
It is unclear which animals would need culling or vaccinating, but the report listed minks, non-human primates, mice, rats, ferrets, hamsters, cats, and dogs, as all having the ability to carry the virus. Denmark last year culled its entire mink population in order to stop the spread of coronavirus, while National File noted on Saturday that 60% of the deer population in Michigan have been exposed to the virus, with 33% having antibodies for it.
Despite the push for vaccinations by the British government, a widely vaccinated populace would not prevent such a potential death rate with a new COVID variant, as vaccinations do not provide “absolute sterilising immunity,” in that they “do not fully prevent infection in most individuals.” A CDC study published this week confirmed that 74% of those who tested positive for COVID-19 had been fully vaccinated against it.
“These stark words from the Government’s own advisors underlines what many of us have been warning about and confirms there are still obstacles to overcome,” said Professor Martin McKee, an expert in public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “The government can’t be complacent, they must continue their support for the development of the next generation of vaccines and prioritise the reduction of infections here at home to reduce the possibility of another domestic variant emerging,” he added.