The lack of vaccines against Covid in Africa, a key to the origin of the Omicron variant

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus, which triggered the global alert, was detected in one country, South Africa, where the anticovid vaccination rate is only 25%. A fact that highlights the urgency of better distributing the doses to avoid dangerous mutations, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned this Saturday.

The emergence of Ómicron “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.

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 inequality in the distribution of vaccines there is more opportunity for the virus to be transmitted, and with this to mutate its structure, “added the official WHO account on the social network.

“While there is still much to learn about Omicron, what we do know is that while large parts of the world’s 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.

The low vaccination rate against the coronavirus favors the appearance of new variants, according to experts. Photo: REUTERS

Prepare for future pandemics

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 will discuss a treaty to prepare 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, this Friday it was announced that this conference was postponed 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 a proposal to suspend patents a year ago, currently supported by most developing countries and many developed.

The Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which before Omicron also triggered a global alert, 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 are administered today all over the world.

A coronavirus testing center at Johannesburg International Airport in South Africa this Saturday. Photo: AFP A coronavirus testing center at Johannesburg International Airport in South Africa this Saturday. Photo: AFP

More than 30 mutations

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, 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 higher transmission speed, although in recent months the delta, more contagious than the three previously detected, became the dominant one. In the latest laboratory tests, it is present in 99.8% of new global cases.

By Editor

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