Coronavirus variants can make vaccines less effective.

Whether this is the case with the current variants is still being investigated.

In the end, according to experts, vaccination actually reduces the number of new variants that emerge.

How does this work?

There are now three worrisome variants of the coronavirus: the British, the South African and one of the two Brazilian variants.

In addition, new variants are added approximately every week and are monitored.

These variants may be more contagious, they may change the clinical picture or they may make vaccines less effective, but we do not know that yet.

Worldwide vaccination campaigns can reduce the speed at which new variants emerge, according to health organization WHO, among others.

How well do the vaccines work against the current variants?

Most approved corona vaccines have been extensively researched when the current worrisome variants were not yet common.

Only the research into the Janssen vaccine took place in South Africa when the South African variant was already dominant there.

According to the Medicines Evaluation Board, this means that we know that Janssen's vaccine protects against the South African variant of the corona virus.

The vaccine may protect slightly less well.

A smaller study of the AstraZeneca vaccine found evidence that this vaccine is barely effective against mild South African infection.

It is still unclear whether the AstraZeneca vaccine will protect against serious infections with the South African variant.

For a Brazilian variant, it is also possible that vaccines are less effective against this.

In addition, according to the RIVM, there are no indications that the British variant, which is now common in the Netherlands, has an influence on the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Bert Niesters, professor of Medical Microbiology at the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), says that we need to see in practice whether vaccinations can prevent a new variant, such as the South African and British variant, from gaining ground.

"It is of course interesting whether this happens in Israel, where many people have already been vaccinated," said Niesters.

"It is possible that these types of variants can still cause outbreaks in vaccinated areas, but that these outbreaks, for example, are less serious in terms of mortality and hospital admissions."

See also: The most important information about the Janssen vaccine at a glance

Why do variants keep popping up?

According to Niesters, it is quite normal that we continue to see new variants of the corona virus.

"We know about these types of viruses that they sometimes make a mistake when they multiply in your body. This can cause a virus to change."

"Most errors are not favorable at all for the coronavirus. They do not change anything or prevent the virus from multiplying, but this is not always the case. The British variant, for example, had a striking number of changes. These changes made it possible. the British variant infect people more easily. "

What can we do against the development of variants?

Niesters says that the more infections there are, the greater the chance of an unpleasant change.

"You can see it as the State Lottery: with every lottery ticket the chance is very small that the main prize will fall on that lottery ticket. But if you have a million tickets, then the chance is quite high that one of those lottery tickets will win the main prize."

"For the corona virus, every time the virus infects someone and thus starts to multiply, the chance of a meaningful change is very small. But if you have a lot of infections, then the chances are quite high that there is a nasty change occurs. "

An important way to reduce the number of infections and thus the chance of unpleasant changes is to vaccinate, according to Niesters.

Mike Ryan, WHO's Emergency Situations Director, also emphasized on Wednesday that vaccination helps reduce the chance of new variants.

See also: Large field studies show how vaccines prevent death and admission

What will the future bring?

Niesters expects that in a number of years the corona virus may have turned into a harmless cold virus against which vaccination is no longer necessary.

"This could take a long time, up to perhaps fifteen to twenty years."

Before that, Niesters does expect that the most vulnerable groups in particular will sometimes have to be vaccinated against new coronavirus variants that are circulating at that time.

"Future corona vaccines should protect against multiple variants at the same time."

According to Niesters, the corona virus will continue to change, but probably not as quickly as the flu virus does every year.

"One of the reasons for this is that the flu virus is structured differently."

See also: When can we expect an effect from vaccination?