Roundup: Omicron subvariant takes hold in U.S. as federal support goes weak

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, March 24, 2022
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NEW YORK, March 23 (Xinhua) -- The recently emerged version of the coronavirus called BA.2 that has driven a wave of cases in Europe now accounts for as much as 70 percent of new infections in many parts of the United States, according to a new estimate from the genomics company Helix that could signal a new chapter in the third year of the pandemic.

The estimate from Helix, which conducts genomic sequencing on virus samples, came "amid concerns that Europe's surge in infections will be replicated in coming weeks in the United States, where caseloads have often trailed those in Europe by roughly a month," reported The Washington Post (WP) on Tuesday.

It's clear that BA.2, officially considered a subvariant of Omicron, is gaining traction as the previously dominant lineage of Omicron subsides, said the report. In two or three weeks, "everything in the Northeast is going to be BA.2," predicted Jeremy Luban, a virologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

According to the data analysis of The New York Times (NYT), the 7-day average new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday in the United States went down to 1,009, a minus 30 percent change over a period of 14 days. New coronavirus cases were 29,288, recording a minus 29 percent change.


The Joe Biden administration lacks the funds to purchase a potential fourth coronavirus vaccine dose for everyone, even as other countries place their own orders and potentially move ahead of the United States in line, according to administration officials on Monday.

Federal officials have secured enough doses to cover a fourth shot for Americans age 65 and older as well as the initial regimen for children under 5, should regulators determine those shots are necessary, WP quoted anonymous officials as saying. But they also said that they cannot place advance orders for additional vaccine doses for those in other age groups, unless Congress passes a stalled 15 billion U.S. dollars funding package.

Federal regulators and health officials have not yet determined whether a fourth shot is needed, and some experts question whether the extra dose will be necessary to boost protection for the entire population.

Administration officials insisted that placing orders for additional doses ahead of time -- rather than waiting for the United States to be swamped by another wave of the virus -- was imperative and a key lesson from the pandemic's past two years. They also noted that the fast-moving Omicron variant evaded some immune protection conferred by existing vaccines, demonstrating the need to invest in more targeted shots that could better fend off omicron and potential future variants.


On Wednesday, Moderna said that it would seek emergency authorization of its coronavirus vaccine for children younger than 6, after interim results from its clinical trial showed that volunteers in that age group had a similar immune response to young adults when given a dose one-fourth as strong.

But the firm said the vaccine proved only about 44 percent effective in preventing symptomatic illness among children 6 months to 2 years old, and 37 percent effective in children 2 through 5 years old. The company is studying the effectiveness of a booster shot, and one of its top officials said she expects a booster will be necessary for that age group, just as it is for adults.

Jacqueline Miller, the firm's senior vice president for infectious diseases, was quoted by NYT as saying that the relatively low level of protection demonstrated the ability of the Omicron variant to evade the vaccine's shield. Nonetheless, she said in an interview, "What we have seen is a successful trial."

The firm's announcement came shortly before Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to release results from a three-shot study for children under five, using doses one-tenth as strong as those for people 12 and older. Those results are expected in April. Enditem

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