Experts Warn of Rise in New Mutant Viruses As Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Starts

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Health experts have warned people who are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 not to lose the fight saying they can be incubating vessels for more severe variant strains.

Dr Monica Musenero an epidemiologist says that data from elsewhere is showing them that the mutants that these vaccinated people can host are more severe and spread faster even affecting groups such as young people that are currently not being severely affected by the circulating strains of the virus.

Generally, mutant variants arise when the virus replicates creating new errors also called mutations in its genetic material. Experts explain that all viruses mutate and usually the changes either have no impact or are harmful to the virus. But once in a while, there are changes that give the virus an advantage to cause more severe disease or progress and Musenero says this is what has happened with the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Musenero who is also the presidential advisor on epidemics advises that Ugandans should be aware not to experience what is happening elsewhere with vaccination citing Israel that is battling a rise in infections with the new strain among children.

In Kampala, she says the dominant strain circulating now is a new mutation code-named A.23.1.

The existence of this strain in the country was confirmed last month by Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, the Executive Director of Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI). 

According to Kaleebu who is also a virologist, this new Ugandan strain is on an increase and can quickly mutate since they have identified about five mutations out of it so far.

He says it’s still unclear how devastating these new mutant variants can be but predicts many more strains will emerge.

Because of this lingering worry of the worst unexpected to happen, Musenero says they have put together a team to come up with a homegrown vaccine that will kill all emerging strains.

While in the meantime she encourages the vaccinated to stay masked, social distanced and sanitized, she says their local vaccine study which is in very early stages will be able to offer some level of protection, to at least protect people from severe disease and death.  

It should be noted, the AstraZeneca vaccine which is being used in the on-going vaccination exercise that lasts five days has been twisted to be able to be effective against several strains.

Initially, the drug was targeted at the Wuhan virus and when a study was conducted, they found it was only 22% efficacious against the South African variant.

The districts started vaccinating on Thursday following the launch at Mulago National and Entebbe Regional Referral hospitals on Wednesday. 

964,000 doses of the drug have been so far acquired and are targeted to initially benefit 150,000 health workers across government and private hospitals.   

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