South African Covid Strain Troubles Vaccine Drive

As new variants like the one discovered in South Africa migrate to more countries — including the United States — it is becoming ever clearer that the tragedy for poorer countries could become a tragedy for every country. The more the virus spreads, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the greater chance it has to continue to mutate in ways that put the whole world at risk. Recent studies suggest that at least four vaccines that are effective at preventing infection with the original virus did not perform as well against the variant found in South Africa. That variant is also more infectious — as is another one, discovered in Britain — and it is now estimated to make up 90 percent of all cases in South Africa, according to data compiled by researchers. It has turned up in dozens of other countries. Even in the most optimistic scenarios, at the current pace of production, there will not be enough vaccines for true global coverage until 2023. The current rollout plans across Africa are expected to vaccinate only 20 to 35 percent of the population this year if everything goes right. And while some wealthy countries have secured enough vaccine to cover their populations multiple times, South Africa has secured just 22.5 million doses for its 60 million people, and many nations lag further behind.

SOURCE: THE NEW YORK TIMES

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