By Elesha George
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is predicting an increase in two sub-variants of the Omicron Covid-19 virus that is believed to have a higher rate of escapingimmune protection in vaccinated people.
Based on the analysed samples that PAHO has collected, the BA4 and BA5 sub-lineages currently account for just one percent of infections.
But Dr Sylvail Aldighieri, Incident Manager for Covid, said it is likely that in the next few weeks, reports of BA4 and BA5 sub-variants could increase and replace current circulating strains like sequence BA1 and BA2 which account for 70 percent and 28 percent of infections respectively.
“Given the evolution of viruses, additional mutations have been accumulated in the Omicron variant and so several sub-lineages have been generated and detected in the region,” he explained.
“It is likely that we will see an increase in these sub-lineages in the next few weeks in a process which is expected to replace certain circulating strains as we have been seeing for a few weeks in the United States and in Mexico as well.”
In a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, of Harvard Medical School, said that BA4 and BA5 are likely more transmissible and more likely to affect people who had previous Covid infections as well as those who have been fully vaccinated and boosted.
PAHO continued to urge residents in Latin America and the Caribbean to get vaccinated, reporting that 224 million people have not taken a single dose of a Covid jab.
Dr Ciro Ugarte, Director of Health Emergencies, believes further inoculation could prevent another strain of the virus from surfacing.
According to Dr Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO, 1.3 million new cases were reported to PAHO in the last week, while 4,158 people in the Americas died from Covid-related illnesses over the same period.
The largest relative increases were in Bolivia and Peru. The recent numbers represent a 13.9 percent increase in cases from the week before.
In the Caribbean, Dr Etienne said deaths rose by 13.3 percent – a 3.2 percent increase from the previous week.