The United Nations Health Department has classified the coronavirus mutation found in India as a “variant of concern at global level”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the COVID-19 mutation that has occurred in India as a “variant of concern”.
WHO chief scientist Maria Van Kerkhove said Monday that “there is some available information suggesting increased portability of B.1.617,” the variant discovered in India.
She also pointed to early studies “that suggest neutralization is somewhat reduced,” an indication of the possibility that vaccines may be less effective against them.
“As such, we classify this as a variant of concern on a global scale,” she said.
More details would be disclosed in the WHO’s weekly epidemiological update on Tuesday, she added.
The other three mutations classified as of concern by the WHO are the variants that were first detected in the UK, South Africa and Brazil.
Harder to control
The WHO classifies COVID-19 variants into two categories: observed variants and affected variants. The latter are more contagious, difficult to control, or lead to more serious illnesses.
However, there is still no evidence that coronavirus tests, drugs or vaccines are less effective against the variant in India, Van Kerkhove said.
WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan agreed and called for a “balanced approach”.
“What we now know is that the vaccines work, the diagnostics work, the same treatments that are used for regular virus work,” she told journalists.
“So there’s really no need to change any of this, and in fact … people should go ahead and get whatever vaccine they have and are entitled to.”
Experts emphasize that the further the virus spreads, the greater the risk that it will find ideal conditions for mutation in terms of the way it is, and stress that everything must be done to contain the transmission.
“We will continue to see worrying variants around the world and we must do everything we can to really limit the spread,” said Van Kerkhove.
Hundreds of thousands of people have contracted the coronavirus in India every day, and just over 22.6 million infections have been recorded in the country since the pandemic began.
According to the WHO, the number of new infections is falling in most regions of the world, including Europe and America.
However, there is still a sharp surge in South Asia and Southeast Asia, the agency said.
Independently of this, the WHO chief criticized the so-called “vaccine diplomacy” on Monday and called on the countries to work together to end the pandemic.
“Vaccination diplomacy is not cooperation,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters. “We cannot beat this pandemic through competition,” he said.
Tedros criticized “geopolitical maneuvering” at a time when only “clear and clean cooperation … can help”.