A health worker prepares a vial of the Johnson & Johnson Coronavirus vaccine at Pop-up Covid-19 vaccination site set up in a Baseball stadium parking lot. Photo: Bruce Cotler/ZUMA Wire/dpa
A health worker prepares a vial of the Johnson & Johnson Coronavirus vaccine at Pop-up Covid-19 vaccination site set up in a Baseball stadium parking lot. Photo: Bruce Cotler/ZUMA Wire/dpa

The world’s population will likely need to receive booster shots to ensure they are protected against COVID-19, particularly as new variants of the disease continue to emerge, Robert Steffen, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Zurich and a frequent adviser to the World Health Organization (WHO), told Sputnik.

Steffen, who spoke on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), said that new variants of the disease were bound to develop, adding that there is strong evidence that messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, such as those produced by Pfizer and Moderna, appeared to offer strong protection against new variants.

“New variants are going to pop up every now and then as long as we do not control this pandemic. No question about that. For the time being, and I just read the latest from American sources this morning [Friday], the mRNA vaccines continue to offer a very good protection against all types of mutant,” the University of Zurich epidemiologist said.

Nevertheless, booster shots are likely to be needed for individuals who received either an mRNA vaccine or a viral vector vaccine, such as the one produced by AstraZeneca, Steffen stated.

“I believe that anyway, for either type of vaccine, we will need to discuss booster doses. You may recall that at some stage, it was stated that the current vaccines would protect for six months, now there are some discussions whether there might be protection for 12 months, but sooner or later, there will be booster doses needed, and of course, these will be second generation vaccines,” the academic said.

Several new, highly transmissible variants of COVID-19 have emerged in countries such as the United Kingdom, South Africa, and India since late last year.

In late May, the World Health Organization issued a new list of labels for so-called variants of concern. The Delta variant, which was first identified in India, has rapidly spread across the world over recent weeks and could cause the UK government to delay lifting some of its social distancing measures still in force.

This year’s edition of SPIEF was held from June 2-5 in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. Rossiya Segodnya was an official media partner of the event.

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