GENEVA (AP) – World Health Organization advisers are holding a special session Friday to clear information about a worrying new type of coronavirus that has been discovered in South Africa, even though a leading expert says its impact on COVID-19 vaccines may not be known for weeks.
The Technical Advisory Group on the Evolution of COVID-19 has nearly met to discuss the so-called B.1.1.529 variant that has sent stock markets swooning and led the European Union to recommend halting flights to South Africa.
The group can decide whether it is a “different type of concern” – the more disturbing type, such as the well-known delta variable – or a “variable of interest”, and whether to use a Greek letter to classify it.
“We don’t know much about this, yet. What we do know is that this variant has a large number of mutations, and the concern is that when you have a lot of mutations, they can to have an impact on how the virus behaves., in a conversation on social media Thursday.
She said less than 100 complete genome sequences are available so far.
“It will take a few weeks for us to understand the impact of this alternative on any potential vaccines, for example,” Van Kerkhove said.
It was too early to comment on the alternative, said Dr Anurag Agrawal, director of the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, reached by phone. He said more data was needed before he could add information that was already available.
“This is one to watch. I would say we have a concern, but I think you want us to worry,” Van Kerkhove said. “We have people working on this.”
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