MANILA – Two sub-lineages of the globally dominant Omicron variant are seen to have a growth advantage over the BA.2 sub-lineage, which is the most detected in sequences in various countries around the world, according to the World Health Organization.
WHO’s Technical Lead for COVID-19 Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said while the BA.4 has only been detected in 16 countries and the BA.5 in 17 countries, there are indications that it is more transmissible.
“We are starting to see an increase in detection of these 2 sublineages in South Africa. We do see a growth advantage of BA.4 and BA.5 over other variants of concern, but it’s still low levels. we’re watching very closely at what’s happening in South Africa. We don’t know how these sub-lineages will behave in other countries with a dominant wave of BA.2,” she said.
The Philippines has yet to detect the BA.4 and BA.5 sublineages.
Meanwhile, the BA.2.12.1, a sub-lineage of BA.2, has already been detected in 23 countries. Most of the available sequences for this sub-lineage comes from the United States.
“We see an increase growth rate over BA.2. We will start to see increasing case detection of this particular sublineage. We do have some data from New York in the United States,” Kerkhove said.
Available data however points to very little difference in terms of hospitalization rates of the BA.2.12.1 compared to BA.2. The world body however says, this could change as more information becomes available.
Despite lower levels of infection in various countries, the Philippines included, Dr. Van Kerkhove gives a clear reminder that the pandemic is not over and that the disease it causes has become mild.
“This notion that this virus has now become mild is false! It’s false, and we need to correct that narrative. This virus is killing people. It’s killing at least 12 thousand people per week, people who don’t need to die. I don’t understand how we’ve become numb to these numbers is acceptable. It’s not acceptable,” she said.
WHO data show that from May 2 to 8, 3.5 million cases have been reported globally with 12,000 deaths. The figures show a 12% and 25% decrease respectively compared to the previous week. Nevertheless, some WHO regions like the Americans and Africa have observed an increase in both new cases and deaths.
“So it isn’t over. What we are worried about with such intense circulation, we are very worried about future emergence of variants. the virus continues to evolve the more it circulates, the more opportunities it has to change.”
Meanwhile, WHO Health Emergency Program Executive Director Mike Ryan reminds countries that even if they do see improvements in the pandemic situation, efforts to vaccinate more people must not falter.
Ryan said so far, only 54 countries have reached the 70 percent target of vaccinated population, while 72 countries are in between 40-70% vaccination rates. 68 countries remain to have a vaccination rate under 40%.
“It’s more than third of our member states still under that 40%, if you look inside that 40 percent number of the eligible population, what’s striking is the proportion of people who are vulnerable or with underlying conditions who are still not vaccinated. this to me is the biggest tragedy right now,” he said.
The Philippines has so far vaccinated 76 percent of its eligible target population. More than 13 million have received booster doses, which the government admits is low which, according to health authorities, may have been cause by the public’s growing complacency.