Should retail prepare for a vaccine resistant virus?
The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, said last week during a media briefing that the large numbers of people walking around unvaccinated against COVID-19 not only make it more likely that hospitalizations and deaths will continue to rise but also more likely a variant will arise that even vaccinations are unable to stop.
The bad case scenario described by Dr. Walensky could be “just a few mutations away” from where the world finds itself now with the Delta variant.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed similar warnings this week about the rise of a more deadly virus strain, with cases in the U.S., primarily of the Delta variant, quickly moving closer to 100,000 a day as misinformation about vaccines continues to be spread through social media and other outlets.
“We’re very lucky that the vaccines that we have now do very well against the variants — particularly against severe illness. We’re very fortunate that that’s the case. There could be a variant that’s lingering out there that can push aside Delta,” Dr. Fauci told the McClatchy news service.
“If another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble,” he said. “People who are not getting vaccinated mistakenly think it’s only about them. But it isn’t. It’s about everybody else.”
The Lambda variant, which was first detected last year in Peru, has made its way to the U.S. with just under 2,000 cases confirmed to date.
A recent study by Japanese scientists found the Lambda variant to be highly transmissible while also showing signs of being more resistant to current vaccines on the market. The research paper, which appeared on the bioRxiv database of preprinted studies that have yet to be peer reviewed or published in recognized journals, found variations in three spike proteins that attach to human immune cells and make it harder for vaccines to work.
Medical science may be able to keep pace with Lambda and other variants, but what happens after that? Retail scenario planners tasked with identifying potential threats and to determine business responses may have only a couple of years to chart a response. Will the industry be ready if that happens?
- CDC Updated Mask Guidelines Press Conference Transcript July 27 – Rev
- Fauci fears that a variant worse than delta is coming, says COVID-19 cases may double – McClatchy DC Bureau
- SARS-CoV-2 Lambda variant exhibits higher infectivity and immune resistance – bioRxiv
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do retailers and brands need to be actively engaging in scenario planning to anticipate what they will need to do if COVID-19 cases continue to spread and vaccine resistant strains become dominant? Should retailers be more aggressive now than they are currently when it comes to vaccinations, mask wearing and other practices to stop the spread of COVID-19?