Alert by omicron shows the global error of not better distributing vaccines

The omicron variant of the coronavirus, which has triggered the global alert, was detected in a country, South Africa, where the anticovid vaccination rate is only 25%, which highlights the urgency of distributing better doses to avoid dangerous mutations, he warned today the World Health Organization (WHO).

The emergence of omicron “evidence that we have to accelerate equality in vaccines as soon as possible and protect the most vulnerable everywhere,” said the director general of the organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on his official Twitter account today.

Qualified as a “variant of concern” by the who on Friday, which requires a special monitoring of its evolution, the omicron “recalls that the greater the inequality in the distribution of vaccines, there is more opportunity for the virus to be transmitted, and with it that it mutates its structure,” the account added. WHO official on the social network.

“Although there is still much to know about omicron, What we do know is that as long as large parts of the world population are unvaccinated, variants will continue to appear and the pandemic will continue, “said Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, which together with the WHO distributes anticovid doses to developing countries through the COVAX platform.

“We will only prevent new variants from emerging if we are able to protect the entire world population, not just the most prosperous parts,” he added in a statement.

Key moment in the fight against the pandemic

The global alert for the new variant, which according to WHO experts is possibly more contagious than the previous ones, arises a few days after the organization holds an extraordinary assembly in which it will debate a treaty in preparation for future pandemics, something that seems more urgent than ever.

Also in the next week it was expected to advance in a global agreement to suspend the patents of anticovid vaccines in order to increase their production, during negotiations within the XII Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that It was to start on November 30.

However, that conference was postponed on Friday night sine die precisely because of the alert for the omicron variant, since the cascade of restrictions on flights from southern Africa that it has unleashed prevented many ministers from attending the meeting in Geneva .

South Africa, the country where the variant was first detected, is precisely one of the two WTO members that, together with India, presented the proposal to suspend patents a year ago, currently supported by the majority of developing countries and many developed.

Coincidentally, the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that before the omicron also triggered a global alert, the delta, was first detected in India, another developing country whose complete vaccination rate is also still relatively low, at 30% , despite being one of the main producers of the anticovid vaccines that today are administered throughout the world.

Rapid mutation and transmission

The WHO Advisory Group of Experts on the Evolution of Viruses, meeting on an emergency basis on Friday, determined that some of the more than 30 mutations that have already been detected from omicron seem to suggest an even greater transmission capacity than previous strains.

They did not indicate for now if the new variant is more or less resistant to anticovid vaccines, but they did point out that diagnostic tests of the disease with PCR seem to continue to be valid to detect it.

Cases of this new variant have already been detected not only in almost all South African provinces, but also in neighboring Botswana, Hong Kong (China), Israel and Belgium, as well as a possible case in Germany.

In addition to omicron, there are four other “variants of concern” according to the WHO classification: alpha (first detected in the UK), beta (also in South Africa), gamma (Brazil) and delta (India).

These variants are usually associated with a higher transmission speed, although in recent months the delta, more contagious than the three previously detected, became the dominant one, to the point that in the latest laboratory analyzes it appears present in 99 , 8% of new global cases.

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