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Why ‘virus nationalism’ could be self-defeating


National Science and Media Museum

Bradford virus expert set to deliver next Cafe Scientifique talk

Virus nationalism, where countries hoard virus vaccines in order to prioritise their own citizens, could end up being self-defeating, argues one virus expert.

Conor Meehan is a lecturer in Molecular Microbiology in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Bradford. He is due to deliver a talk at the next Cafe Scientifique event hosted by the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford on Thursday February 25, from 6.30pm.

Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Meehan said: “The problem is if we vaccinate in some countries and not others, the virus has the potential to mutate into a version which is potentially able to withstand vaccines, which would make everything up to this point a waste of time and money.

“A good example is South Africa, which had to wait a long time for vaccines and now they have a new strain that might make some vaccines less effective. You need to be looking at vaccinating all of the countries, not just the ones who have the money to make the vaccines.

“The row between the UK and Europe illustrated a number of things, including misunderstandings about how the manufacturing process works and political problems. The point is, the virus doesn't have a passport, there are no borders to pathogens, so they will just go where they want to go. So, taking care of one country and not others - unless you are an island that is completely shut down like New Zealand - is not feasible. Or you just end up making all the vaccines invalid and have to start again.”

Dr Meehan, who has conducted pioneering work which has advanced our understanding of tuberculosis, is due to deliver a talk at the next Cafe Scientifique hosted by Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum, comprising a 30-minute lecture, followed by a question and answer session.

He will cover topics including the ‘R’ number, herd immunity, vaccines, new strains of the virus and lockdowns.

Café Scientifique is suitable for all ages and abilities, but some events may have adult themes or content.