Even as people hoped for a positive start to the New Year on the vaccine front, the UK reported a new coronavirus variant at the end of 2020 which plunged England into a hard lockdown yet again and dampened hopes on the vaccine front. The variant has reportedly spread to more than 30 countries across the world with Vietnam being the latest to report a case on Saturday. The country has banned almost all international travel but is running flights to bring back nationals stranded in the United Kingdom.
The United States is, by far, the worst-affected country in the world with the highest number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases and India follows with the second-highest number of infections. At least three US states have reported the new virus variant and the country’s limited genetic sequencing might be causing the strain to spread undetected in certain parts.
Scientists, however, do not believe that the new variant is more deadly or resistant to the vaccine. This is because mutations in viruses are natural, but the strain is 70% more transmissible than the original ones, hence experts have advised people to be more careful. The winter season saw a massive surge in coronavirus infections in European nations. Ireland went from having the EU’s lowest per capita rate of coronavirus infections to the fastest-growing, according to the Guardian.
“Right now, we believe the UK variant is here at a relatively low level, even with that small sample,” Philip Nolan, head of Ireland’s Covid-19 modelling group, was quoted by the Washington Post. “We saw an even more intense level of socialization and viral transmission over Christmas than we might have expected, and that’s what’s leading us to the really precarious position we’re in now,” Nolan added.
On the vaccination front, Israel has had the most impressive showing as the country has already administered the first of the two shots to over a million of its citizens, the highest rate in the world. In comparison, the US’ efforts to vaccinate its population pales as 2.8 million people were given the jab by December 30, far behind President Donald Trump’s promised 20 million by the end of the year.
In the UK, British health officials said that their priority was giving the first shot to as many people as possible to ensure partial safety as the country tries to grapple with the new variant.
India on Sunday authorised two Covid-19 vaccines developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca and another developed by Bharat Biotech, paving the way for a huge inoculation program to stem the coronavirus pandemic in the world’s second-most populous country. Drugs Controller General Dr VG Somani said that both vaccines will be administered in two dosages.
It would take weeks before the effects of the initial vaccine shots kick in and months before most of the people in the world have access to them. Poorer countries might have to wait even longer to get their citizens inoculated.