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Professor: In the future, we will change the vaccines and adjust

Toivo Maimets
Toivo Maimets Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

That the coronavirus vaccines were developed at record speed was a great win for science, but the work to keep changing the vaccines when new mutations arise continues, University of Tartu's cell biology professor Toivo Maimets said on ETV's current affairs show "Esimene stuudio".

Speaking on Thursday evening, Maimets said the current data shows the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency work differently with different variants of the virus. While there will be multiple new variants and the coronavirus will not disappear entirely, it should be treated similarly to influenza and the vaccines should constantly change.

"We have to live with the virus, it won't disappear entirely, but we will manage to keep it under control. As for influenza, we create different vaccines every year. Fortunately, the RNA technology allows us to move faster from one mutation to another. I think we will say in the future that we can change the vaccines and adjust," Maimets said.

Whether the coronavirus vaccines need to be changed every year, Maimets could not say.

AstraZeneca vaccine should not be doubted

Confusion around the AstraZeneca vaccine, especially regarding the age limit, is standard practice Maimets said, where repeat testing creates new knowledge.

"When a couple of months ago the AstraZeneca vaccine was not recommended for the elderly, the reason was simple: in the third clinical testing group, there were not as many older people and they did not know whether there was a danger or not. The following studies showed that there is no difference if the person is younger or older. AstraZeneca is as good a vaccine as Pfizer or Moderna. They have been tested well and they're all very good."

Maimets does not recommend the Sputnik vaccine because there is no scientific data to back it up.

"It's a medicine, which effectiveness and side effects have not been tested and approved by trustworthy evaluators. The European Union has not even had a chance to evaluate Sputnik because they have not applied for market authorization. This is why I would not get the vaccine for myself or my children. I don't argue it could be a good vaccine - I have great respect for Russian scientists and they are great scientists who have dealt with the vaccine. But as long as there's no adequate control, I don't recommend it to anyone," Maimets said.

Return to normal life

Maimets said the rising number of people who have been vaccinated or already suffered from the virus means that this year, we can do things we have only been able to dream of at the moment.

"I believe that this year we will be able to visit our loved ones without fear and travel. It is quite clear we won't be able to get rid of the virus. The herd immunity idea appears to not be too efficient," Maimets said.

Maimets said that 70 percent of the people are needed for herd immunity, but it's difficult to reach it at the moment when there is no vaccine for people under 17.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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