New COVID variants may obviate vaccine effectivenessPosted by Josh Taylor / May 22, 2021
The global spread of “variants of concern” is worrying health officials. Variants that bypass the protection given by vaccines or previous illness may mean new surges of COVID. The world is thus in a race against time––get enough people vaccinated before variants spread or risk a new pandemic.
One of the Indian COVID variants have been reported in Texas, affecting two children under 12. The World Health Organization has classified another COVID variant from India as a global health risk because of its highly contagious nature and evidence suggesting that it can evade some vaccine protections.
COVID is killing 120 people per hour in India. Just this week, India set a new single-day COVID record on Thursday, with more than 410,000 new cases. COVID cases have topped 20 million. Things have gotten so bad that cricket, one of the nation’s favorite pastimes, has been halted. India’s vaccination rates are plummeting, thanks partly to the collapsing healthcare system in the country and shortages of the Russian vaccine.
A group of India’s leading industrialists urged the country to slow economic activity in order to save lives. The group’s urgings come as India’s daily COVID cases surpassed 400,000 for the first time, signaling a grim new turn in the virus’s spread in that country.
The United States has limited travel from India as the country suffers under a massive COVID surge. Perhaps the United States is worried about new strains getting into the country, since India blamed its COVID spike on variants of the virus. Meanwhile, India is planning to allow the annual Amarnath pilgrimage, which may see as many as 600,000 pilgrims, despite being the midst of an unprecedented COVID crisis, with cases surging well beyond the country’s capability. In the penultimate week of April, India saw 341,000 COVID cases in a single day. The spike in cases is partly due to some of the new variants spreading around the world––but the spike also raises concerns about new variants emerging in the country more than one billion people. Should too many new variants emerge, the spike could get worse elsewhere. What’s worse, if the variants bypass the vaccine then we could be set back to zero.
The country’s government is floundering in the face of the surge, and they’re struggling to contain the bad PR. Twitter is actually blocking complaints about the Indian government’s handling of the crisis, most likely in order to stave off social unrest. The government is clearly worried about some form of collapse, in fact, since they’ve threatened to hang anyone who interferes with oxygen deliveries. Saudi Arabia is sending India some 80 metric tons of oxygen. The United States is also sending raw materials for dealing with the COVID outbreak, including materials for a vaccine.