May 21, 2021 – COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States and Europe provide protection against the four main variants of the coronavirus known to exist, an official from the World Health Organization has said.
“All the variants of the COVID-19 virus that have emerged so far respond to the approved vaccines available,” WHO European regional director Hans Kluge told a press conference on Thursday.
Kluge said that the B.1.617 variant currently killing thousands of people every day in India, where it was first detected, is of particular concern.
This variant has spread to all six WHO regions and has been detected in 26 of the 53 countries in the WHO European region. Most of the cases are linked to international travel, he said.
“It is able to spread quickly and displace the B.1.1.7 variant which has become the dominant lineage in Europe,” he said.
Kluge pointed out that while many people have not yet been vaccinated, all variants can be controlled with public health and safety measures, such as masks and social distancing.
“At the moment, we can say that all four variants respond to the vaccines made available, as of today,” he said. “But the best way to counter [spread] is to accelerate the deployment of vaccination. ”
The other variants are those detected for the first time in Brazil (P.1) and South Africa (B.1.351).
Luge said the vaccination program was reducing the number of COVID in the WHO European region, with the number of cases declining by 60% in one month. But he warned not to let your guard down.
“This progress is fragile. We have been here before. Let’s not make the same mistakes that were made around this time last year that led to a resurgence of COVID-19, ”he said.
Luge said countries should “phase out or rethink” international travel. But the European Union and the United Kingdom recently relaxed guidelines for international travel.
“Vaccines may be the light at the end of the tunnel, but we must not be blinded by that light,” he said.
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