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Reasons why the omicron variant is more likely in the world

(CNN) – Many of the world’s richest countries have spent the past year Stocking up on coronavirus vaccines, buying enough doses to vaccinate its population multiple times without constantly keeping promises to share doses with developing countries. The World Health Organization said this approach was “counterproductive” and “unethical”.

And that’s exactly what he could start playing against. new variable and Possibly more portable The virus likely originated from an area with low vaccination rates.

The new variant known as omicron, was first identified in South Africa, although it is unclear whether it originated there or was brought into the country from other parts of the region.

What scientists do know is that the virus is more likely to mutate in places where vaccination is low and transmission is high.

The new Omicron variant: what do we know so far? 1:36

“It probably appeared in another country and was detected in South Africa, which has a very, very good genetic sequencing capacity… and it could be the result of outbreaks, possibly in some parts of sub-Saharan Africa,” said Michael Head, the researcher. The lead in global health at the University of Southampton, told CNN in a phone interview, “There is not a lot of genetic surveillance and the vaccination rate is low.”

He also stated that the emergence of new variants was “a natural consequence of the slow pace of vaccination in the world.”

“We still have a large unvaccinated population, like in sub-Saharan Africa, which is vulnerable to major outbreaks,” he said.

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Head added that the new variants of the virus that have caused problems in the past have come from places that have experienced large, uncontrolled outbreaks, such as when the alpha variant was first discovered in the UK last December, or the delta variant it was. Initially found in India in February.

It has already spread all over the world

The omicron variant is already widespread throughout the world; As of Sunday, it had been detected in several countries, including South Africa, Botswana, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Belgium and Canada.

Several countries around the world have responded to news of the new variable by quickly closing their borders to travelers from countries in the region, including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi.

But scientists, experts and public health advocates have warned that it is likely due to the huge gap between vaccination rates in the developed and developing world.

The new alternative illustrates why the world needs to ensure more equitable access to vaccines and other public health tools, said Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, a health research charity.

“The new variables are a reminder, if we need them, that the pandemic is far from over,” he said on Twitter. “Inequality is what will spread the epidemic.”

There’s a long way to go to get an equal vaccine

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), only 7.5% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. In the eight countries most affected by the Omicron-related travel ban, the proportion of the population who received at least one dose of the vaccine ranges from 5.6% in Malawi to 37% in Botswana.

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Meanwhile, 63.9% of people in high-income countries have received at least one injection, according to the World Health Organization. In both the European Union and the United States, about 70% of people have received at least one injection, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fears of the omicron variant make Israel close its borders 1:59

While there are many reasons why a country might have a lower vaccination rate (vaccine hesitation remains a huge problem in many countries, including South Africa), lack of access to doses is a problem, Head said.

“One contribution to this is that wealthier countries accumulate doses in excess of what they really need and are not complying with obligations to donate vaccines to COVAX or directly to the countries themselves,” he said.

COVAX is the World Health Organization’s Global Vaccine Exchange Program. As of last month, 537 million doses had been shipped through the plan to 144 countries; A small percentage of the 7.9 billion doses to be administered globally to date.

The World Health Organization’s goal of vaccinating 40% of the population of all countries by the end of 2021 and 70% by the middle of next year appears to be a long way off, with only two African countries, Morocco and Tunisia, currently on the way. to achieve a goal.

Gordon Brown, the WHO’s ambassador for global health funding and former British prime minister, wrote in The Guardian on Saturday that “the world’s failure to put vaccines into the arms of people in the developing world is now back to haunt us. They have been warned, and here we are.”

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“In the absence of universal vaccination, Covid-19 is not only spreading among unprotected people, it is changing, with new variants emerging from the poorest countries and now threatening to spread even to fully vaccinated people in the richest countries in the world,” he wrote.

The Chair agreed with this assessment. “It’s all come back to bite us…until the epidemic is resolved…that involves vaccinating all over the world, and then he may recover as well, we’ve seen that with Delta in India.”

The rich world’s reaction to the news that South African scientists had discovered a new variant was an example of their selfishness, said Dr Richard Lisels, an infectious disease specialist at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, South Africa.

“I found it really disgusting and disturbing… It wasn’t just the travel bans implemented by the UK and Europe, but that was the only reaction, or the strongest reaction.

“There was no word of support they would give African countries to help us control the epidemic, and in particular, there was no mention of addressing the vaccine inequality that we have been warning about all year and [de la cual] “Now we are seeing the consequences unfold,” he told CNN.

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