A first contamination with the coronavirus variant in France has been confirmed by the French health authorities. This first case was detected in Tours, the Directorate General of Health said on Friday, December 25. He is a man of French nationality residing in England. Arrived from London on December 19, he was tested positive on December 21. Asymptomatic, he is isolated at his home.
“Estimates show that increased attachment by the virus spike protein to cells probably allows the virus to be more contagious.” explained on franceinfo Dr Benjamin Davido, infectious disease specialist at Raymond-Poincaré hospital in Garches. The arrival of this variant “risks preventing having a number of contaminations which will go down”.
franceinfo: Are there going to be other cases of contamination with this variant?
Benjamin Davido: It’s a certainty. We are in the scenario that strongly resembles last February where we had a kind of moral border with screening of people returning from specific areas, from Asia, then from Italy, and we saw that this display in time does not could not control the circulation of the virus. It is a disease that is often silent, asymptomatic and therefore we will not succeed in tracking down an asymptomatic virus whose genetic code is different.
Should we be worried about this mutation?
The word worried may not be the right word, but it is sure that this risks creating again a hospital tension or at least preventing from having a number of contaminations which will go down. Estimates show that the increased attachment of the virus spike protein to cells probably allows the virus to be more contagious and this means that the R0 (virus reproduction rate) can go up to 0.4 additional point. It is this famous value which must remain below 1 to control the circulation of the virus and in France we are around 0.96. We can see that if this variant started to become predominant, we would be very bothered to have lasting control of the virus. In England, they are considering accelerating the campaign to spread the vaccine to take precedence over the virus.
Could this mutation accelerate the vaccination schedule in France?
I think so. This can make it possible to have an individual awareness of the fact that our susceptibility to this virus is high and that our room for maneuver is relatively small. He is always one step ahead. There has been talk of the fact that winter weather conditions can increase its spread. Today, we realize that a minor mutation that will have no impact on the vaccine can accelerate its transmission and explain why we have not managed to obtain less than 5,000 contaminations in early December. Do we want the virus to take precedence with a risk of increases in hospitalizations and deaths and perhaps a re-containment or do we want to speed up the vaccination schedule so that this summer we can hope to come to bout this virus?
The first vaccinations begin on Sunday in France. Are you worried that the vaccine will not be effective with this mutation?
I’m not particularly worried. But if we have one or more vaccines and we do not get vaccinated in France we will not obtain this collective immunity. It takes about six months if we want to vaccinate the entire population in France. We can see that we have a duty to set an example. If we want there to be a benefit from vaccination at the end of the day, we need to have a sufficient number of French people, but also in the world of people vaccinated for this epidemic to stop. We have a real match and we have to be present from January 1st.