Vaccines effective against new Omicron subvariants, WHO chief says

 ·5 May 2022

Vaccines are effective against new omicron sub-variants driving a surge in Covid-19 cases in South Africa, the head of the World Health Organisation said.

“It’s too soon to know whether these new sub-variants can cause more severe disease than other omicron sub-variants, but early data suggest vaccination remains protective against severe disease and death,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a media briefing in Geneva Wednesday.

Scientists in South Africa and Botswana discovered omicron late last year and South Africa was the first country to experience a major surge of infections as a result of the variant. Now BA.4 and BA.5, two omicron sub-variants, are driving a new spike in cases in South Africa.

Global deaths due to Covid-19 have fallen to the lowest levels since March 2020, with about 15,000 fatalities last week, according to the WHO.

Still, Tedros urged that countries and health systems continue to test and track the virus to help identify new mutations.

“In many countries we’re essentially blind to how the virus is mutating. We don’t know what’s coming next,” Tedros said.

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