Friday, January 21News That Matters

Tag: World Health Organization

What We Know About the New Covid Variant, Omicron

What We Know About the New Covid Variant, Omicron

Technology
Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson, makers of vaccines approved for use in the United States, and AstraZeneca, which is widely used in Europe, have all said they were studying Omicron, and they expressed confidence in their ability to tailor their formulations to target the variant.Why is it called Omicron?When the W.H.O. began to name emerging variants of the coronavirus, they turned to the Greek alphabet — Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and so on — to make them easier to describe. The first “variant of concern,” Alpha, was identified in Britain in late 2020, soon followed by Beta in South Africa.But veterans of American sorority and fraternity life might have noticed the system has skipped the next two letters in the alphabetical order: Nu and Xi.Officials thought Nu would be ...
How Did the New Variant Get Its Name?

How Did the New Variant Get Its Name?

Technology
Markets plunged on Friday, hope of taming the coronavirus dimmed and a new term entered the pandemic lexicon: Omicron.The Covid-19 variant that emerged in South Africa was named after the 15th letter of the Greek alphabet.The naming system, announced by the World Health Organization in May, makes public communication about variants easier and less confusing, the agency and experts said.For example, the variant that emerged in India is not popularly known as B.1.617.2. Rather, it is known as Delta, the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet.There are now seven “variants of interest” or “variants of concern” and they each have a Greek letter, according to a W.H.O. tracking page.Some other variants with Greek letters do not reach those classification levels, and the W.H.O. also skipped two lette...

New ‘Omicron’ Variant Stokes Concern but Vaccines May Still Work

Technology
Scientific experts at the World Health Organization warned on Friday that a new coronavirus variant discovered in southern Africa was a “variant of concern,” the most serious category the agency uses for such tracking.The designation, announced after an emergency meeting of the health body, is reserved for dangerous variants that may spread quickly, cause severe disease or decrease the effectiveness of vaccines or treatments. The last coronavirus variant to receive this label was Delta, which took off this summer and now accounts for virtually all Covid cases in the United States.The W.H.O. said the new version, named Omicron, carries a number of genetic mutations that may allow it to spread quickly, perhaps even among the vaccinated.Independent scientists agreed that Omicron warranted urg...
First Known Covid Case Was Vendor at Wuhan Market, Scientist Claims

First Known Covid Case Was Vendor at Wuhan Market, Scientist Claims

Technology
A scientist who has pored over public accounts of early Covid-19 cases in China reported on Thursday that an influential World Health Organization inquiry had most likely gotten the early chronology of the pandemic wrong. The new analysis suggests that the first known patient sickened with the coronavirus was a vendor in a large Wuhan animal market, not an accountant who lived many miles from it.The report, published on Thursday in the prestigious journal Science, will revive, though certainly not settle, the debate over whether the pandemic started with a spillover from wildlife sold at the market, a leak from a Wuhan virology lab or some other way. The search for the origins of the greatest public health catastrophe in a century has fueled geopolitical battles, with few new facts emergin...

W.H.O. Will Announce New Team to Study Coronavirus Origins

Technology
The new committee, known as the Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens, will differ in several respects from the team that the W.H.O. sent to China. Because that team visited Wuhan, China had considerable influence over its membership. That is not the case for the new committee, a permanent panel that Dr. Van Kerkhove said would begin with frequent, closed-door meetings on the coronavirus.In soliciting applications, the W.H.O. asked potential committee members for a statement about any conflicts of interest, in addition to a cover letter and résumé. That appeared to be an attempt to head off critics who complained that a member of the previous team, Peter Daszak, an animal disease specialist, was too closely tied to a Wuhan virology institute at the center of lab leak...

As International Travel Returns, Confusion Over Coronavirus Vaccines Reigns

Travel
In the initial stages of vaccination rollouts in the spring, some countries offered mixed doses of vaccines because of supply shortages. In Canada, at least 3.9 million people received two different shots and are now facing travel restrictions because many countries, including the U.S., only consider people with two identical doses fully vaccinated.“For Canadians, I think a booster shot to match one of the first vaccines doses will be the likely get-out-of-jail card,” said Ms. Mills, who is Dutch Canadian.And where is your documentation?Even after being permitted to enter a country, foreign visitors can face difficulties accessing establishments or services that require vaccine “passports” or certificates, like restaurants and museums, because of compatibility issues between types of verif...
Africans Welcome New Malaria Vaccine. But Is It a ‘Game Changer’?

Africans Welcome New Malaria Vaccine. But Is It a ‘Game Changer’?

Technology
“The vaccine saves lives but it will not be a silver bullet,” said Dr. Githinji Gitahi, the chief executive officer for Amref Health Africa, a nongovernmental organization.The vaccine, called Mosquirix, targets the deadliest malaria parasite and the most common in Africa — Plasmodium falciparum. While the vaccines are a “huge addition to the fight” against malaria, said Dr. Gitahi, health officials will still have to deploy “a Swiss cheese strategy,” which includes insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor spraying.Faith Walucho is the mother of an 11-month-old who was recently diagnosed with malaria. The 29-year-old trader of used clothing in the city of Kisumu in western Kenya said she received the news about the vaccines “with a lot of happiness.” In Kenya, an estimated 10,700 deaths from...
Palestinians Finally Have Vaccines. But Will People Take Them?

Palestinians Finally Have Vaccines. But Will People Take Them?

Technology
BETHLEHEM, West Bank — Since the coronavirus first emerged in the occupied West Bank, Suha Gadeon has worn her mask assiduously, avoided mingling with friends and declined to host family members or attend public gatherings.But Ms. Gadeon, 41, the membership director at the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, has refused to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, worrying about side effects like blood clots, heart complications and hair loss. While some damaging side effects have been found, they are extremely rare and health experts say the benefits of getting vaccinated far exceed the risks.“I’m strongly opposed to taking the vaccine now,” she said. “I would only be comfortable after a three- to five-year study proves that it is safe to get.”For months, the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and i...
‘Window Is Rapidly Closing’ to Gather Key Evidence on Virus Origins, Scientists Say

‘Window Is Rapidly Closing’ to Gather Key Evidence on Virus Origins, Scientists Say

Technology
Experts studying the origins of the coronavirus for the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that the inquiry had “stalled” and that further delays could make it impossible to recover crucial evidence about the beginning of the pandemic.“The window is rapidly closing on the biological feasibility of conducting the critical trace-back of people and animals inside and outside China,” the experts wrote in an editorial in the journal Nature. Several studies of blood samples and wildlife farms in China were urgently needed to understand how Covid-19 emerged, they said.Amid a rancorous debate about whether a laboratory incident could have started the pandemic, the editorial amounted to a defense of the team’s work and an appeal for follow-up studies. A separate report by American intell...
Iran’s Health System ‘Beyond Disastrous’ from Covid Surge

Iran’s Health System ‘Beyond Disastrous’ from Covid Surge

Technology
Hospital medics in Iran are triaging patients on the floors of emergency rooms and in cars parked on the roadside. Lines stretch for blocks outside pharmacies. Taxis double as hearses, transporting corpses from hospitals to cemeteries. In at least one city, laborers are digging mass graves.Iran is under assault from the most cataclysmic wave yet of the coronavirus, according to interviews with physicians and health workers, social media postings from angry citizens, and even some unusually frank reporting in state media. The aggressive Delta variant has led to record numbers of deaths and infections, and appears to be overwhelming the health system of a country that has been reeling from Covid-19 since the scourge began.The latest phase of the crisis has intensified the challenges facing I...