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Budget 2021

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Budget 2021

Associate Partners:

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WHO convenes emergency committee early over coronavirus variants

The newly identified variants, which appear to be significantly more infectious than the strain that emerged in China in 2019, come as spiking virus numbers force many nations to enforce new lockdowns.

January 14, 2021 / 01:27 PM IST

The World Health Organization's emergency committee will meet two weeks early on Thursday to discuss the new coronavirus variants from South Africa and Britain that have rapidly spread to at least 50 countries and sparked widespread alarm.

The newly identified variants, which appear to be significantly more infectious than the strain that emerged in China in 2019, come as spiking virus numbers force many nations to enforce new lockdowns.

The committee normally gathers every three months but the WHO said the director-general pulled the meeting forward "to consider issues that need urgent discussion".

"These are the recent variants and considerations on the use (of) vaccination and testing certificates for international travel," the global body said Wednesday.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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There are concerns that the new mutations may render certain vaccines less effective, undermining hopes that inoculations offer the best hope of recovery from the global pandemic.

The committee of experts is overseen by France's Didier Houssin and its recommendations will be published after the meeting.

The meeting comes as global infections soared past 91 million and deaths approached two million, with governments around the world reimposing painful economic lockdowns and social restrictions.

The newly discovered variants can only be identified by sequencing their genetic code, an analysis that is not possible everywhere.

A third mutation, originating in the Brazilian Amazon and whose discovery Japan announced on Sunday, is currently being analyzed and could impact the immune response, according to the WHO.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
AFP
first published: Jan 14, 2021 01:24 pm

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