Sunday June 26, 2022

A continued threat

By Editorial Board
November 28, 2021

We are beginning to forget that the Covid-19 pandemic continues to present a threat to people all over the globe. The pandemic has already killed over 5 million people. We now have the discovery of a new variant, titled Omicron, which has been discovered in South Africa, Belgium, and Hong Kong and is beginning to surface in other countries as they carry out genome testing. The WHO has labelled this a variant of concern because of the number of mutations that it carries, which means it could even evade the vaccines already given out and thus present a new threat to people already stricken by the worst crisis to be encountered throughout the world since World War II. The WHO has asked countries to step up genome sequencing to see how widespread the variant is and vaccine manufacturers are saying they are already beginning tests to try and ascertain how effective their vaccines are against this new variant.

Experts also say one of the reasons for new variants breaking out is the delay in vaccinating enough people quickly enough. In Africa, only 15 nations have reached the target set in May by the WHO of vaccinating 10 percent of their population. These nations include those with upper and middle upper incomes, including the Seychelles, South Africa, Mauritius, Morocco and a few other countries. In other nations, the vaccination rate stands at barely three percent or even below this figure. An inequitable distribution of vaccines to the world is believed by experts to be a factor in the mutations we are seeing and new variants coming into the equation. In addition to the vaccination shortage, essentially because the vaccine is unfairly distributed with Western countries holding large amounts for their own use, the issue is also one of ensuring that poorer nations have sufficient facilities to house the vaccine, including refrigeration equipment and technicians who can administer the jab.

The inequity is now showing with the emergence of a new variant, which has already led nations to putting tight new travel restrictions in place. The WHO has warned that it should not go ahead with these restrictions until it is known what the virulence of the new variant is. But countries wish to be careful and are obviously averse to the idea of seeing a new wave of Covid-19 take over this winter with the flu season now at its height and winter in the northern hemisphere lurking or already in place for most countries in these parts of the world.