The WHO said on Wednesday that the so-called Indian variant of coronavirus has now been detected in 44 countries in all six WHO regions. The UN health agency based its findings on 4,500 samples uploaded on an open-access database.
The variant, which is known as B.1.617, is believed to be one of several factors behind the massive outbreak in infections across India. Outside of India, the UK has reported the highest number of COVID cases caused by the Indian variant.
Earlier this week, the WHO declared B.1.617 as a “variant of concern” (VOC), adding it to a list that includes the Brazil, South Africa and UK variants.
WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan said there was no data on the impact of the variant on diagnostics, therapeutics or vaccine effectiveness. However, he said it was “more transmissible.”
Here’s a look at other coronavirus news from around the world…
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute of public health reported 14,909 new COVID infections and 268 deaths over the past 24 hours in Germany. A week ago, Germany reported 18,034 new daily infections.
Bolivia signed a deal to buy 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, stipulating that Biolyse Pharma, a Canadian company, would make the jabs and the World Trade Organization would have to waive the vaccine’s patent.
Bolivia’s government said that it had applied to the WTO to waive the patent.
Benjamin Blanco, a Bolivian trade official, said that the clause would help the country speed up vaccinations. Currently, Bolivia has managed to vaccinate just 10% of its population, that too with a single jab.
The drug, if manufactured domestically, could cost about $3-$4 a dose. Blanco said that if the patent waiver is granted, then production could begin in three to six months.
Peru’s Health Ministry said on Tuesday that it is investigating a case in which nurses tried to vaccinate patients against COVID with empty syringes. The ministry said it had noted at least three cases in the country’s capital.
Arturo Granados, the spokesman for the health ministry, said the results of the investigation would be revealed on Thursday.
The scandal comes at a time when Peru is struggling with vaccinating its population. Several wealthy Peruvians are known to have headed to the US to receive vaccinations.
Brazil has suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID jab in pregnant women following the death of a pregnant woman in Rio de Janeiro after taking the vaccine. The expectant mother suffered a hemorrhagic stroke.
Franciele Francinato, the health ministry’s vaccination program coordinator, told reporters that this suspension was a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, Anvisa, Brazil’s health regulator, issued a warning about the use of the COVID jab in pregnant women. The regulator added that it had not been informed of any other side effects of the vaccine in pregnant women.
“The serious adverse event of a hemorrhagic stroke was assessed as possibly related to the use of the vaccine given to the pregnant woman,” said Anvisa. AstraZeneca has said that pregnant and breastfeeding women had been excluded from clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, has suspended the use of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as a first dose. The province cited new data showcasing increased risks of blood clotting.
“This decision was made out of an abundance of caution due to an observed increase in the rare blood clotting condition, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia, linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine,” said David Williams, the chief medical officer of health of Ontario province.
Ontario’s decision follows a similar move by Alberta, another Canadian province, to stop administering the vaccine.
Ontario has administered over 650,000 shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Recipients include Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife. At least 12 clotting cases have been reported in Canada after administering the AstraZeneca jab.
am/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)