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New Vaccines No 'Guarantee of Victory' Over COVID, Experts Say

FILE - A laboratory worker simulates the workflow in a cleanroom of the BioNTech Corona vaccine production facility in Marburg, Germany, during a media day, March 27, 2021.

A group of international public health experts says a successful rollout of new vaccines is “no longer a guarantee of victory” over the coronavirus pandemic.

In an essay first published Monday in the academic journal The Conversation, members of the Lancet COVID-19 Commission Task Force on Public Health said the world is in “a race against time” to vaccinate enough of the global population to guard against the spread of new, more contagious variants. They say these mutations could render current vaccines virtually ineffective and that the variants have “changed the game.”

The task force cited three new “variants of concern” that could prolong and possibly worsen the pandemic, including the ones detected late last year in Britain and South Africa, and a third detected in Brazil in January.

The experts are calling for a global strategy of “maximum suppression” of COVID-19, including continued mitigation efforts such as face masks and physical distancing, and ventilation of indoor spaces, along with the ongoing vaccination efforts. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Australia and New Zealand, which have been successful in curbing the spread of the infection by closing borders, have reached an agreement to create a so-called “travel bubble” that would allow Australians to visit New Zealand without entering a mandatory quarantine period, beginning April 19. Parts of Australia have for several months allowed people from New Zealand to visit without them going into quarantine.

“This is an important step forward in our COVID response and represents an arrangement I do not believe we have seen in any other part of the world,” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Wellington Tuesday. Ardern warned the planes could be stopped if there are any new outbreaks in Australia.