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New Study Documents Vaccine Deprivation in Africa Creates New Variants

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EIRNS—A joint study by WHO and the AU’s Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, entitled “A Year of Genomic Surveillance Reveals How the SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic Unfolded in Africa,” indicates that the lower rate of vaccination throughout Africa (3.2% of the 1.2 billion people) makes it a ripe area for breeding new variants. Further, the very partial introduction of the vaccine, carried out slowly and inadequately, actually favors mutations that would make variant strains more resistant to the vaccine.

The study, published in Science on Sept. 9, looked at genomes from 33 African nations. The coronavirus entered Africa mainly from Europe, and Europe received, in return, nastier variants. The study found that the “slow rollout of vaccines in most African countries, creates an environment in which the virus can replicate and evolve. This will almost certainly produce additional VOCs [variants of concern], any of which could derail the global fight against COVID-19.” One cited was the C.1.2 variant out of South Africa. However, various strains have spread out of Africa, and primarily from South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya—countries with more connections with non-African countries. Presently, variants of interest (VOI) B.1.525 from West Africa and A.23.1 from East Africa were identified as key targets for containment.

Tulio de Oliveira, who runs gene-sequencing operations at two South African universities, and who was involved in the study, made clear: “It is our moral duty to try to protect Africa and the world.” It should be added: The “practical” and selfish approach of “me-first,” including the inordinate hoarding of vaccines, has proven in the real world rather impractical. The article concludes with its warning: “If the pandemic is not controlled in Africa, we may see the production of vaccine escape variants that may profoundly affect the population in Africa and across the world.” (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abj4336) [dms]