As different variants and subvariants continue to emerge, a leading scientist believes the next step is to create a vaccine that stops transmissions.

Sir John Bell, who served as a member UK vaccine task force that worked on the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, revealed scientists need to turn their focus to stopping the spread since the vaccinations currently available have helped prevent mass deaths.

“We need a new vaccine to stop transmissions, and there are lots of interesting ideas,” Bell said.

“Deaths from the disease, those really awful deaths, had largely been eliminated by the late spring [2021], and they rumbled along, at a very low level and very close to baseline, and they’ve continued to rumble along almost in a flat line since then.”

Bell appeared to be skeptical about whether the current vaccines will have a long-term future because “none of them are very good at stopping transmissions.”

Rather than focusing on boosters, he believes scientists should work on ending the possibility of transmissions with a new vaccine.

“So you’ve got a couple of choices. You can make a new vaccine every time you see a variant, and it may be less good than the original vaccine, so you end up chasing your tail,” he explained.

“You could probably use the existing vaccines to boost the elderly people at some sensible interval, preventing them from dying. We have to wait and see if we do see more deaths in that population … but we haven’t seen them yet.”

Bell’s comments come after the World Health Organization (WHO) reported an estimated 14.9 million people, between Jan. 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021, have died as a direct or indirect result of Covid-19.

The amount reported was nearly three times more than what the health agency initially reported. During that period, WHO reported 5.4 million people died from COVID-19, which means 9.5 million deaths were left unaccounted for.

“Excess mortality is the difference between the number of deaths that have been recorded and those that would be expected in the absence of the pandemic,” said Samira Asma, the assistant director-general for the Data, Analytics, and Delivery for the Impact Division of WHO.

Among the excess COVID-19 deaths, 57% were in men, and 82% were in people over the age of 60. More than 70% of the excess deaths were in the United States, Russia, Mexico, India, South Africa, Peru, Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia, and Turkey.

A healthcare worker prepares the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination centre, in El Paso A healthcare worker prepares the Moderna vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a vaccination centre, in El Paso, Texas, U.S May 6, 2021. Picture taken May 6, 2021. Photo: Reuters / JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ