SCOTS epidemiologists have joined experts from some of the world’s leading academic institutions in warning that Covid mutations could render current vaccines ineffective in a year or less.

The group that includes Devi Sridhar, professor and chairman of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh have also delivered a stark warning of the risk the world is taking by failing to ensure all countries have sufficient vaccines to protect people from Covid-19.

The concerns have come from a survey of 77 epidemiologists from 28 countries, carried out by The People’s Vaccine Alliance.

It showed that two-thirds thought that we had a year or less before the virus mutates to the extent that the majority of first-generation vaccines are rendered ineffective and new or modified vaccines are required.

Of those surveyed, almost a third gave a timeframe of nine months or less. Fewer than one in eight said they believed that mutations would never render the current vaccines ineffective.

And the overwhelming majority - 88 per cent - said that persistent low vaccine coverage in many countries would make it more likely for vaccine resistant mutations to appear.

The alliance, a coalition of over 50 organisations including African Alliance, Oxfam, Public Citizen and UNAIDS has now warned that at the current rate it was likely that only 10 per cent of people in the majority of poor countries will be vaccinated in the next year.

READ MORE: Vaccine concerns as Scots cases of Covid variants double in two weeks

Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed - who included epidemiologists, virologists and infectious disease specialists from institutions the Uninversity of Edinburgh, Johns Hopkins University and Yale in the US, the Imperial College, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Cambridge said that open sharing of technology and intellectual property could increase global vaccine coverage.

HeraldScotland:

The alliance calling for the lifting of pharmaceutical monopolies and the sharing of technology to urgently boost vaccine supply.

Ms Sridhar said: “The more the virus circulates, the more likely it is that mutations and variants will emerge, which could make our current vaccines ineffective. At the same time, poor countries are being left behind without vaccines and basic medical supplies like oxygen.

“As we've learned, viruses don't care about borders. We have to vaccinate as many people as possible, everywhere in the world, as quickly as possible. Why wait and watch instead of getting ahead of this?”

It comes as health secretary Matt Hancock yesterday said that the “biggest problem” facing the country was from variants such as those first found in South Africa and Brazil, and it was not yet known if vaccines were effective against them.

Work is under way at Public Health England’s Porton Down laboratory and specialist facilities to find out whether current vaccines are less protective against variants.

Firms including AstraZeneca are already working on new jabs that could be rolled out in the autumn if the current crop are found not to work.

Last week a new "double mutant" variant of the coronavirus was detected from samples collected in India.

Officials have been checking if the variant, where two mutations come together in the same virus, may be more infectious or less affected by vaccines.

Some 10,787 samples from 18 Indian states also showed up 771 cases of known variants - 736 of the UK, 34 of the South African and one Brazilian.

Officials say the variants are not linked to a spike in cases in India.

The alliance said their survey shows that it is "imperative" for the safety of all citizens in all countries that people in developing countries are vaccinated as soon as possible. "Failure to tackle global vaccine inequality heightens the risk of further mutations," the alliance said.

"Rich country defence of the monopolies of pharmaceutical giants mean that global supplies are being artificially rationed, with a handful of companies deciding who lives and who dies," it said. " Earlier this month, rich countries blocked a proposal to waive intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines. The alliance urges them to reconsider when talks resume at the World Trade Organisation in April."

The alliance is also calling for all pharmaceutical corporations working on Covid-19 vaccines to openly share their technology and intellectual property through the World Health Organization Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, in order to speed up and ramp up the production and rollout of vaccines to all countries.

Anna Marriott, Oxfam’s health policy manager, said: “In many rich nations, vaccinated people are starting to feel safer, but unless we vaccinate all nations, there is a huge risk that the protection offered by vaccines will be shattered by fresh mutations.

“This survey highlights that we need a people’s vaccine, not only to protect people in the world’s poorest countries, but to ensure that people all over the world who’ve already been vaccinated aren’t put at risk again.”