Kiwi immunologist pleads not to let Covid be endemic in NZ

Source: 1News

A leading immunologist is pleading with New Zealand not to let Covid-19 become endemic, saying more can be done than just vaccination to wipe out the virus.

On Monday Professor Graham Le Gros wrote alongside Professor Rod Jackson and Professor John Donne Potter a widely published document headlined, "why we must not allow Covid to become endemic in New Zealand" , highlighting all the reasons Kiwis can’t let the coronavirus become the “new normal”.

Le Gros, director of the Malaghan Institute and programme director of Vaccine Alliance NZ, told Breakfast on Wednesday while the lasting impacts of Covid-19 are still not known, New Zealand can't afford to learn to live with the virus.

“Covid-19 is still evolving,” Le Gros said.

“This is a pandemic we're facing, this is enormous, it's global, it's evolving and learning. Two years ago, it was a bat virus - now it's learning how to infect humans and it's learning to infect us in different ways.

“We have to hang in there, we cannot yet live with it.”

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 07: A sign encourages masks and social  distancing in Newmarket on September 07, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Face coverings are now compulsory for all New Zealanders over the age of 12 on public transport or planes under current Alert Level restrictions in place across the country. Auckland is currently at Alert Level 2.5 while the rest of New Zealand is at Alert Level 2. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

Le Gros said studies have found the virus can have serious long-term problems for young people with the virus able to grow in hear, lung, stomach and brain tissue.

“We’ve got to make sure those people are protected so just allowing the virus to go around being endemic would be the wrong way to do this,” he said.

“I’m afraid of us letting it become endemic without really understanding what that means and the consequences that will come with it.”

With that in mind, Le Gros said simply vaccinating the majority of the population wasn’t enough to keep Kiwis safe and more can be done to ensure it doesn’t become part of society.

“[We need] vaccination with better vaccines,” Le Gros said.

“We need sterilising vaccines – we need to have the aspiration and ambition to make a sterilising vaccine. This current vaccine is very good and very safe but it’s still allowing transmission which is causing all the problems.

“We have to make better vaccines or get booster shots that stops the transmission.”

Le Gros said he and other Kiwi researchers are aiming to release a booster shot for New Zealand next year.

In the meantime, the current vaccine was Aotearoa’s best bet and he supported the upcoming push to increase vaccine numbers.

“We’ve got to save peoples lives.”