Coronavirus mutating slowly, may respond to single vaccine

Virus not mutating quickly

Scientists says COVID-19’s genetic code is not mutating quickly, meaning any vaccine may stay effective for the long term.

Peter Thielen of Johns Hopkins University told the Washington Post there are just 4-10 genetic differences of the strain of the coronavirus in the United States and the original strain in China. 

“That’s a relatively small number of mutations for having passed through a large number of people,” he told the Post. “At this point the mutation rate of the virus would suggest that the vaccine developed for SARS-CoV-2 would be a single vaccine, rather than a new vaccine every year like the flu vaccine.”

He said the eventual vaccine could work as well as one for measles, lasting most of a person's life.

This differs from the flu, which mutates rapidly and requires a new vaccine to be developed annually. 

Thielen told the Post high death rates in places such as Italy have been attributed to factors other than mutations. 

“So far we don’t have any evidence linking a specific virus [strain] to any disease severity score,” he said. “Right now disease severity is much more likely to be driven by other factors.”

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