Sunday, June 13

A Coronavirus Variant First Found in India is Now Officially a ‘Variant of Concern’


Amid a deepening crisis in India, the World Health Organization announced Monday that it had designated the B.1.617 variant, which has been growing more common in the country, as a variant of concern. Scientists still don’t know much about the variant yet, but they are worried that it may be helping to fuel the rise in the nation’s coronavirus infections, which experts say are likely undercounted.

“There is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies” of the variant, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead of the W.H.O.’s coronavirus response.

Dr. Van Kerkhove also said that a study of a limited number of patients, which had not yet been peer reviewed, suggested that antibodies from vaccines or infections with other variants might not be quite as effective against B.1.617. However, the agency said that vaccines will likely remain potent enough to provide protection against B.1.617.

More details will be released in a report on Tuesday, Dr. Van Kerkhove said.

The variant was first detected in India at the end of 2020 but became more common in the country starting in March. It has since been found in 32 countries including the United States and the United Kingdom. The W.H.O.’s announcement comes as growing numbers of medical experts are adding their voices to a chorus of condemnation of the Indian government’s response and calling for nationwide restrictions to try to limit the horrifying death toll.



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