Vaccine: should we be concerned about virus mutations?

A doctor closely followed online ensures that the mutations of Covid-19 will make future vaccines useless and evokes a 'scam'. Words that make virus genomics specialists jump.

Sometimes presented as a "conspirator" or "reassurance", Doctor Louis Fouché has acquired a certain notoriety on social networks, where his interventions on the sidelines of the health crisis are the subject of multiple times and comments. Intensive care anesthetist at the Hôpital de la Conception in Marseille, the person concerned was recently summoned by his management, which accuses him of denying the seriousness of the epidemic in the Marseille city.

In one of his last interventions, relayed more than 2,000 times, he assures that the mutations of the virus will make future vaccines totally ineffective. "Here we are at the 4th variant [term which designates a new significant" version "of the virus, editor's note] in Marseille for 6 months, and the 4th variant is very different from the first, it could almost be called SARS-CoV - 3. "

He goes on to assure that "you don't do immunity because the viruses are too different from each other. The vaccine will never work. Doing immunity on the March strain, you don't give a fuck, because it doesn't work on the virus now. So it's a scam, it's a heist. "

    Unfounded assertions

Solicited by LCI, Étienne Simon-Lorière falls from the clouds when he discovers these words. Head of the RNA virus evolutionary genomics laboratory for the Institut Pasteur, he confirms that the virus mutates over time, but indicates that this in no way calls into question the effectiveness of the vaccines developed. "The scientific community is closely monitoring the evolution of the virus," he notes, "and we logically see mutations because it is an RNA virus. On average, there are two changes per month . "

In 11 months, there are "about 22 changes in the genome compared to the strain that emerged at the start of the epidemic", continues this specialist. "But today, there is no change that has been associated with a reduction in neutralization by antibodies." Whether it is for people who have naturally been exposed to the virus (and who have built an immunity) or for "the sera which have been generated by an immunization in the pre-clinical or clinical phases". He is categorical: "All the tests show that the recent variants are also neutralized by these sera."

Speaking of a virus that could be renamed so much it has changed is absurd in the eyes of Etienne Simon-Lorière, since we "do not see today a variant of the virus that is excessively divergent". None in any case that could give rise to fear that a vaccine would be ineffective. As LCI pointed out a few weeks ago, SARS-CoV-2 does not stand out with more than normal mutations, far from it. "It is in a low average for RNA viruses", estimates the expert of the Pasteur Institute.

Will its mutations nevertheless require long-term changes to vaccines? It's likely, but not for some time. "If it ever turns out that the virus should accumulate sufficient mutations to be able to reduce the capacity of the vaccine a little bit and the vaccine developers consider that it becomes important enough that it requires a vaccine update, it will be done, "says Étienne Simon-Lorière. "These are possible things, we are already doing it for the flu for example, but we estimate that it will be more in a few years that we could be confronted with this problem."

In conclusion, it is therefore completely wrong to ensure that the mutations of the virus will render the vaccines developed against Covid-19 ineffective. None of the mutations observed is in fact significant enough to call into question the effectiveness of the vaccines developed.

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