A highly mutant, potential killer COVID variant on WHO’s radar

Omicron variant Eris takes a temporary backseat from limelight    
A highly mutant, potential killer COVID variant on WHO’s radar
COVID Variant

COVID infections and hospitalizations have already been rising in the US, Europe, and Asia, with many cases this summer attributed to the EG.5 “Eris” subvariant, a variant from the Omicron lineage.

But the latest COVID variant BA.2.86 is being described as “radically different” and has more than 30 mutations.

The new lineage, named BA.2.86 was classified as a “variant under monitoring” last week by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Scientists are keeping an eye on the variant that has been found in Denmark, the UK, the U.S. and Israel.

BA.2.86 stems from an “earlier branch” of the coronavirus. Early results are not clear whether it is able to out-compete other strains of the virus or have any advantage in escaping immune responses from prior infection or vaccination.

New variants are not found as easily as during COVID because many countries have drastically reduced testing for the virus.

WHO said that there was very “limited information available right now” on BA.2.86, though it is to cause more illness and death in vulnerable populations.

Read: Will emerging COVID strain, Eris, reignite pandemic?

New U.S. funding for COVID-19 vaccines

The U.S. government said on Tuesday, August 22, 2023, that it had awarded $1.4 billion for the development of new therapies and vaccines against COVID-19, This included a $326 million contract with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals for a next-generation antibody therapy for the prevention of infections.

“Project NextGen” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funds Regeneron with up to $5 billion initiative.

Regeneron had earlier developed a monoclonal antibody therapy against COVID but was found to be unlikely to work against the Omicron variant.

The funding also includes $1 billion for four mid-stage clinical trials of new COVID vaccines.

Misinformation about killer vaccines

A poll released yesterday by U.S. health policy research company KFF found nearly all participants in the survey were aware of COVID-related misinformation.

Some 96 percent said they had heard at least one of 10 claims presented to them. The new polling data found that a third of adults believed the COVID-19 vaccines “caused thousands of sudden deaths in otherwise healthy people.”

Some 10 percent believed that claim to be “definitely true” and 23 percent said it was “probably true.” Another 34 percent said it was “probably false,” and 31 percent said that claim was “definitely false.”

Roughly a quarter of people said they believed vaccinations against measles, mumps, and rubella caused autism in children, and that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. No evidence has so far been found for either claim.

KFF found that certain groups were more susceptible to misinformation than others, including those with lower levels of educational attainment.

The KFF Health Misinformation Tracking Poll Pilot was conducted from May 23 to June 12. Pollsters included 2,007 adults in the survey and the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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