South African epidemiologist: COVID-19 origin-tracing requires int'l cooperation in collecting scientific evidence
By DU Huabin & WANG Xiaoxia
Recently, Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim, famous clinical epidemiologist in South Africa, said to media via video link that COVID-19 origin-tracing work must be carried out scientifically and rigorously. He stressed that the collection of scientific evidence required international cooperation. It is not the time for political posturing and accusations, but for a calm mind to ensure that we collect scientific evidence.
Karim said it was important to trace the origin of the novel coronavirus because it could provide people with clues about future outbreaks. For example, it is known that the SARS-associated coronavirus was probably transmitted to humans from bat through Paguma larvata.
South Africa approved the use of China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine. On this issue, he said that South Africa had a very strict regulatory procedure to ensure the approved drug’s quality, safety and efficacy. He believes that the Sinovac vaccine is as efficacious as other COVID-19 vaccines.
As for the impact of COVID-19 variants on epidemic prevention and control, Professor Karim suggested that most vaccines seem to perform well in preventing COVID-19. However, some vaccines have been found to be ineffective to the variants. For example, AstraZeneca vaccine is basically ineffective against the Beta variant.
He pointed out that even if we are now carrying out mass vaccination, we should be cautiously optimistic. If a new variant can escape vaccine immunity and spread rapidly, it can be expected that the variant would pose new challenges to our current vaccination plan, and extra doses could be required to inject into the population.
Professor Karim noted that if our goal was to resume a normal society, we could not simply think that mass vaccination can do it. Instead, we need to stay alert, monitor and evaluate each new variant to ensure that it will not escape vaccine immunity.
Salim S. Abdool Karim serves as South Africa's co-chairman of the ministerial advisory committee on COVID-19. Widely recognized for his research and contributions in AIDS prevention and treatment, he is also Chair of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel.