(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media

COVID-19 may be mutating too fast for our vaccine rollout to cope. One global survey found two-thirds of epidemiologists believe the first generation of vaccines will be useless within a year as the virus mutates. Australians are not likely to be vaccinated until the end of next year.

Contracts with vaccine manufacturers are for only the initial version of the vaccine -- not updated versions to address new common strains. Low vaccination levels may also contribute to the rate of vaccine-resistant mutations and travel bubbles could allow people to catch and spread new strains.

How fast is the virus mutating?

Viruses continuously mutate. The Sars-CoV-2 virus mutates at about half the rate of the influenza virus. Importantly most of these mutations are very slight -- if the virus mutates too much it couldn’t bind with spike proteins in human cells -- and most mutations don't affect the virus' efficacy. Many dominant strains have been replaced and the original Wuhan strain has almost disappeared.