WHO Says New Coronavirus Variant in France Not a Threat – Yet
The World Health Organization says a new coronavirus variant recently detected in France is nothing to be concerned about right now.
Scientists at the IHU Mediterranee Infection Foundation in the city of Marseille say they discovered the new B.1.640.2 variant in December in 12 patients living near Marseille, with the first patient testing positive after traveling to the central African nation of Cameroon.
The researchers said they have identified 46 mutations in the new variant, which they labeled “IHU” after the institute, that could make it more resistant to vaccines and more infectious than the original coronavirus. The French team revealed the findings of a study in the online health sciences outlet medRxiv, which publishes studies that have not been peer-reviewed or published in an academic journal.
Abdi Mahmud, a COVID-19 incident manager with the World Health Organization, told reporters in Geneva earlier this week that, while the IHU variant is “on our radar,” it remains confined in Marseille and has not been labeled a “variant of concern” by the U.N. health agency.
Meanwhile, an international team of health care advocates and experts is calling for 22 billion doses of mRNA vaccine to be administered around the world this year to stop the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant. The team is urging the production of an additional 15 billion doses of mRNA vaccine, more than double the projected 7 billion doses.
The report says mRNA vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna have demonstrated the best protection against several variants by providing cross-immunity through so-called T-cells, an arm of the human immune system that kills virus-infected cells and keeps them from replicating and spreading.
The report was a collaboration among scientists at Harvard Medical School, Columbia University, New York University and the University of Saskatchewan and the advocacy groups PrEP4All and Partners in Health.