A growing number of states and countries are detecting the omicron variant, although it has not yet been identified in Illinois.
Some say the mutation raises concerns about the fairness of vaccines around the world.
“I think the vaccine distribution did not go very well because at the start of the pandemic, high-income countries – I don’t blame them – prioritized immunizing their populations while many countries low-income people did not have the resources to access any vaccine. So that disparity is still there, ”said Dr. Sola Olopade, director of clinical programs at the Center for Global Health at the University of Chicago. He is also Dean of Academic Affairs in the Division of Biological Sciences.
New variants of the coronavirus are emerging in parts of the world where vaccine distribution is weaker, said Dr Richard Novak, head of the infectious diseases division at UI Health.
“The problem is particularly serious in Africa, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, but if you look at the whole of the African continent, I think that only 8% of the continent has been vaccinated. So they’re really late. The distribution of vaccines in Africa is essential if we are to control the pandemic, ”Novak said.
South Africa has a higher vaccination rate than most other countries in Africa.
While the omicron variant was first detected in South Africa, it is not clear where the variant first emerged. Novak says South Africa uses an “excellent data collection system”.
“That’s why we know in South Africa, because they’ve done such a good job, frankly better than we’ve done in the United States, to sequence the viral islands and keep track of what’s going on as it goes. time, ”Novak said.
COVAX is an international collaboration that works to create an equitable distribution of vaccines. The World Health Organization and GAVI, a vaccine alliance, co-lead COVAX. Olopade said these organizations must be able to negotiate prices for COVID-19 vaccines, as they have done for other vaccines in the past, in order to improve access to vaccines.
“I think if we can do that and some of the high income or rich countries also make a significant contribution, either in terms of vaccines or in terms of financial support … I think that can help reduce the gap if we can overcome the reluctance to vaccinate and all the bad information going around, ”Olopade said.
United States and other countries have travel restrictions
The United States and other countries implemented travel restrictions to South Africa after announcing the variant. Many – including the World Health Organization – have criticized travel bans for penalizing South Africa for sharing information.
“[South Africa has] a terrific monitoring system and a very robust laboratory system. They were able to identify this new variant of omicron very early on, ”said Michael Diamond, medical anthropologist, professor at DePaul and president of World Resources Chicago.
“The downside for South Africa is that they were then penalized by countries banning all travel not only from South Africa, but also from southern Africa and other African countries, which sends a message of sanctions to other countries that wish to come forward, ”Diamond said.
Olopade said he doesn’t believe travel restrictions will prevent academics from sharing information about the new variants. However, he is concerned about the “unintended consequences” of such restrictions.
“The unintended consequence is that we are worsening the economic situation in these countries. We are dismantling the fragile health care infrastructure and allowing more and more people to become infected and make us all dangerous, ”said Olopade.
Novak says travel restrictions aren’t an “unreasonable approach” to slowing the spread of a variant, but it may or may not be effective.
“In that case, it’s probably too little too late frankly, the so-called horse is already out of the stable, I guess. We are already seeing the omicron variant in at least 17 states and it is in a number of countries… The spread had already occurred before South Africa identified the omicron variant in South Africa, ”said Novak.
“It may or may not do it, we just don’t know, but it might be too late. The virus is already here, and we already have evidence of community spread, a few cases, most of the cases have been significant, and so maybe by closing the borders we will slow the spread, but we will not prevent it. not, ”Novak mentioned.
President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, Dr Anthony Fauci, on Sunday said he hoped the ban would be lifted “within a reasonable period of time,” AP News reports.