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Blanket use of booster dose will only prolong pandemic: WHO

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* Omicron variant has 37 spike protein mutations
* Russia’s COVID death toll tops 600,000
* Australian States reinstate curbs

SWITZERLAND,CANADA,RUSSIA, AUSTRALIA: The World Health Organization (WHO) has criticised the prevailing idea of blanket administration of booster doses of vaccines against COVID-19, pointing out that undertaking such a policy will widen the pre-existing vaccine inequality among the first-world and relatively poorer nations.

Speaking on the matter, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing on Wednesday that blanket COVID-19 booster programs are also likely to prolong the pandemic, rather than ending it, “by diverting supply [of vaccines] to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage”. This will give the coronavirus “more opportunity to spread and mutate” thus potentially extending the pandemic, the WHO Chief said.

“In the context of ongoing global vaccine supply constraints and inequities, broad-based administration of booster doses risks exacerbating vaccine access by driving up demand in countries with substantial vaccine coverage and diverting supply while priority populations in some countries, or in subnational settings, have not yet received a primary vaccination series,” the WHO statement read. Meanwhile, Canadian researchers on Wednesday revealed, what they say, is the first molecular structural analysis of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the country which has shown that it has three to five times more mutations in its spike protein than any previous variant.

Dr Subramaniam, a professor in the faculty of medicine’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology who led the study, described Omicron having 37 spike protein mutations as “unprecedented”.

Meanwhile, Russia’s COVID-19 death toll passed the 600,000 mark today, Reuters calculations based on official data showed, after a surge of infections linked to the Delta variant.

Russia had the third highest toll in the world with 600,434 fatalities, behind the United States which has recorded around 813,000 deaths and Brazil with 618,000.

The Omicron variant which is spreading fast in other countries has so far made little impact on the Russian data. Officials said this week they had detected only 41 cases.

Meanwhile, Australia’s COVID-19 testing facilities were severely stretched on Thursday amid a record surge in cases and as tens of thousands of domestic travellers thronged the centres to get test results necessary to travel interstate for Christmas.

More than 8,200 new cases were reported in Australia on Thursday, the biggest daily rise in the pandemic, eclipsing the previous high of some 5,600 a day earlier. The bulk of cases are in its most populous states of New South Wales and Victoria.


Saturday, December 25, 2021 – 01:00

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