There is no evidence so far the COVID-19 mutant is more likely to cause severe disease or mortality, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). "In the past few days, there have been reports of new variants of the COVID-19 virus in South Africa and the United Kingdom. Viruses mutate over time; that's natural and expected," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
WHO is working with scientists to understand how these genetic changes affect how the virus behaves and the bottom line is that we need to suppress transmission of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses as quickly as we can, he said.
"Safe and effective vaccines give us hope, but they are not an excuse for people to let down their guard and put themselves and their loved ones at risk. Now is the time to double down on the public health basics that have seen many countries suppress the virus effectively. There are a number of groups that continue to push a narrative that this virus only affects the old, and that with vaccines on the horizon we can relax. COVID-19 affects children and adults in a variety of ways, and it can attack every system in the body. And a growing number of people suffer with long-term consequences of the virus. This includes neurological complications for children and adults, which are still being researched," Ghebreyesus said.
The COVAX Facility - which is backed by 190 countries and economies - has secured access to nearly two billion doses of promising vaccine candidates.
In early 2021, $ 4.6 billions in additional funding will be needed to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for at least 20% of the population of all low and lower-middle income countries. The hundred-hundred initiative of WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank aims to support 100 countries to conduct rapid readiness assessments and develop country-specific plans within 100 days for vaccines and other COVID-19 tools, said the WHO chief.