As already seen in a Google Trends infographic created by data analyst Roshaan Khan, the keyword vaccine has been the top trending search term starting in December. This was around the time vaccine efforts started becoming a reality and results were on the horizon.

In response to the many questions that he got regarding all of this, Harvard epidemiologist, immunologist, and physician Michael Mina went to Twitter to elaborate on why there’s also a great need for a contingency plan despite vaccines already reaching the public.

With COVID-19 vaccines just now reaching the public, it’s become a popular point of discussion on Twitter

Image credits: Army Medicine

Note that this is by no means a deep dive; the tweets are posted from the perspective of an infectious disease immunologist/epidemiologist from a study of viruses and vaccines. Second, the tweets do not aim to fear-monger or to be alarmist, so take it as food for thought.

An immunologist and epidemiologist joined the vaccine talk by pointing out the need for a contingency plan

References: @angie_rasmussen, @jbloom_lab, @K_G_Andersen, @BillHanage

Image credits: michaelmina_lab

He pointed out that today’s vaccines are too similar among each other, which isn’t good in case of mutations

Image credits: michaelmina_lab

Though it’s understandable that the first vaccines were rushed, future-proofing cannot be ignored

Image credits: michaelmina_lab

We can’t ignore the issue as it can hit at any moment—whether today or years from now

Image credits: michaelmina_lab

So, Mina suggests several steps to be included into contingency plans, starting with vaccine diversification

References: NY Times Opinion

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Then there’s speeding up vaccine development and scaling up accessibility to rapid testing

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He also provided some references and further reading to supplement his thread

References: Expert Letter

References: Michael Mina’s Tweet

References: Science Mag

References: New England Journal of Medicine

Image credits: michaelmina_lab

Needless to say, these solutions are on top of the current hand washing and physical distance methods

Image credits: michaelmina_lab

In short, Mina explained how mutations are a likely possibility—we already see it happening in the UK—so we can’t rely on this one very niche set of vaccines to keep the virus at bay. It hasn’t mutated to an extent that would cause alarm, but why risk it?

So, Mina proposes first diversifying the vaccines to include a more varied set of proteins for our immunity to be aware of and killed-virus vaccines (many are underway, though), among other variants.

Second, considering that the new variants have not yet escaped immunity but seem more transmissible, it is important to consider how current vaccine development could be sped up.

Lastly, there’s a need to scale up frequent accessible rapid testing for at-home, office, and school use. This should help slow the spread and would not be hindered by mutations.

References: Michael Mina’s Tweet

Image credits: michaelmina_lab

This is, of course, on top of the now-common precautions of wearing masks, keeping up to hygiene standards, and staying at home.

The tweet thread led to many people responding. For the most part, people were debating and asking questions—in fact, you can go and read through the response that Mina gave in the thread here.

Others also pointed out that it is necessary to also stress ventilation and aerosol spread as this has been a blindspot among many, and one tweeter also quoted a suggestion that the new mutations in the UK are isolated deals among single infected patients, so there’s no need to panic as it’s very manageable. Though this by no means implies that there shouldn’t be an appropriate response to this.

What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comment section below!