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COVID-19 strain that circumvents the immunity

Cross-posted on Metaculus: Pandemics.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus can mutate and develop new strains. For example, In Early November 2020, a variant strain was identified in Denmark as having an association with mink farming. This led to the immediate cull of all Danish farmed mink (more than 17 million) including breeding stock. More recently, on 16 December 2020, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a briefing on VUI-202012/01, a variant of SARS-COV-2 consisting of 17 mutations, including N501Y, a mutation in the spike protein. The UK government has locked down London and the South East in response.

This question asks:

Will a new variant of SARS-COV-2 that, due to a mutation, can infect people who had immunity to a previous variant, cause more than 10M infections globally by the end of 2021?

This question will resolve according to credible estimates of the prevalence of the relevant new strain, for example from the WHO, US CDC, or SAGE. If no new strain is identified with the property that immunity does not carry over from previous infection or vaccination, this question will resolve negatively.

If coronavirus infection confers partial immunity to the new strain, such that getting the disease is less likely but still possible, this may still count so long as scientific evidence exists (for example in a published paper) that the protection is significantly less for the new strain than the old.

2 February clarification: A "significant reduction in immunity" here is defined as a >=50% difference in the attack rate between strains/variants in seropositive (previously infected) subjects. A potential resolution source might be, for instance, attack rate data collected from the placebo groups of vaccine trials. Such data should be presented in a published paper.


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