At a residential care center in Zaventem, seven residents who were vaccinated have died after contracting the Colombian type of coronavirus. Biostatistician Tom Wenseleers (KU Leuven) pays little attention to this variable.
1. What do we already know about the Colombian variant?
1. What do we already know about the Colombian variant? Tom Winslers: My calculations show that the Colombian variant has only a small advantage over the British alpha variant – too small to take over the more contagious Indian delta variant, which is now prevalent. However, a report from Public Health England indicated that the Colombian variant could bypass a portion of our previously formed immunity, almost to the same extent as the South African experimental variant. But for this alternative, our vaccines have already proven effective in preventing serious diseases. So I see no cause for concern. 2. Could each variable have caused the deaths of seven nursing home residents? Wenseleers: I think it would have been any alternative in this case. We’re talking about vulnerable nursing home residents here, who can also die from seasonal flu. But it is possible that the Colombian variant spreads a little more easily in places where almost everyone has been vaccinated. 3. Do you have any idea of the variables we can expect in the coming months, possibly years? Wenseleers: That’s hard to say. It seems very slim to me that there will be a variant that can completely defeat our accumulated immunity. This would require very significant changes in the virus’s genetic code – so much so that we might call it a different virus. 4. Does this incident make the need for booster injections for the elderly and at-risk patients even more urgent? Wenseleers: Yes, there is more and more research pointing in this direction. But boosters for the elderly are doses we can’t use in developing countries, where sometimes even high-risk patients and hospital staff haven’t received the first shot yet. Seniors who end up in a rest home live there on average for a year and a half. Thus this booster shot extends its life for a relatively short period. We have to make the right decisions, because the lack of vaccines is leading to an unprecedented number of deaths in developing countries.