The detection of an new, heavily mutatedPublic health officials around the world are shocked by a potentially vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant found in Botswana and other countries. rush to understandThe strain and its potential impact on the global pandemic response.
For vaccine equity campaigners and epidemiologists, the emergence of another highly contagious coronavirus mutation is far from surprising given the massive inoculation gap between rich and poor countries, which has left billions of people across the globe without access to lifesaving shots — and kept the door open to variants.
Botswana has vaccinated only 20% of its population, which is where the strain was first identified earlier in the month.
Tim Bierley of the U.K.-based advocacy group Global Justice Now said in a statement that the B.1.1.529 mutation is an “entirely avoidable” consequence of deliberate policy decisions by rich countries, which have hoarded vaccine doses and refused to force pharmaceutical giants to share technology with developing nations.
“The U.K. has actively prevented low and middle-income countries from having equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. We have created the conditions for this variant to emerge,” Bierley said, referring to the British government’s opposition to a proposed patent waiver for coronavirus vaccines.
“For more than a year, South Africa, Botswana, and most countries have been calling for world leaders to waive intellectual property on coronavirus vaccines, tests, and treatments so they can produce their own jabs,” Bierley noted. “It’s a vital measure that will be discussed at next week’s World Trade Organization conference. The U.K. has blocked it from progressing so far. have recklessly blocked it from making progress.”
“There have been countless warnings that super-variants could emerge if we do not remove artificial barriers to global vaccination,” he continued. “If and when this new variant starts to tear through the world, remember that the British government has led opposition to the plan that could have stopped it.”
Srinivas Murthy is an infectious disease expert. echoed That is the sentiment.
“Allowing new variants to emerge and spread, 13 months into the vaccine era, is a policy choice by the rich world,” he argued.
European countries responded to the new variant with a swift and arduous approach to the proposed patent waiver. fresh travel restrictions Visitors from southern Africa are considered global markets tumbled.
Ursula von der Leyen is president of the European Commission. said Friday that the body will “propose, in close coordination with member states, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529.”
“Rich nations are very quick to ban travel but very slow to share vaccines and know-how,” said Madhu Pai Canada Research Chair for Epidemiology, Global Health at McGill University.
Dr. Ayoade Ayoade Alakija is co-chair of Africa Vaccine Delivery Alliance. tweeted that the renewed push to cut off travel “was our greatest fear, and [we] were almost prophetic in predicting that the world would eventually shut Africa out having denied us access to vaccines.”
Five quick tweets regarding the new variant B.1.1.529
Caveat first: data here is *very* preliminary, so everything could change. However, it is better to be safe that sorry.
1) Based on the data we have, this variant is out-competing others *far* faster than Beta and even Delta did 🚩🚩 pic.twitter.com/R2Ac4e4N6s
— John Burn-Murdoch (@jburnmurdoch) November 25, 2021
At a press conference on Thursday, South African Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla said the B.1.1.529 variant — which has thus far been detected in Botswana, South Africa, and Hong Kong — may have been behind recent coronavirus outbreaks in the small South African province of Gauteng. (Update: First European case of the B.1.1.529 variant was identified Friday in Belgium
“Rest assured that as people move in the next coming weeks, this [variant] will be all over,” he warned.
Professor Tulio de Oliveira, a renowned bioinformatician, told the media that in the B.1.1.529 variant, “what we see is this very unusual constellation of mutations.”
“This is concerning,” he said, “for predicted immune evasion and transmissibility.”
As Nature reported, “The variant stood out because it contains more than 30 changes to the spike protein — the SARS-CoV-2 protein that recognizes host cells and is the main target of the body’s immune responses.”
“Many of the changes have been found in variants such as Delta and Alpha and are linked to heightened infectivity and the ability to evade infection-blocking antibodies,” the outlet noted.