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Explained: What Do We Know About Hybrid COVID Variant in Vietnam

Published
Coronavirus
3 min read
Explained: What Do We Know About Hybrid COVID Variant in Vietnam

On Saturday, 29 May, the health ministry of Vietnam announced that a new COVID variant has been identified in the country.

According to Vietnam's Health Minister, Nguyễn Thanh Long, the new variant is a hybrid of the variants B.1.617.2 (first identified in India) and B.1.1.7 (first found in the UK) and is "very dangerous", reported Reuters.

So far Vietnam has reported over 7000 COVID cases, and of these, nearly half the cases have been reported since April 2021.

The alarming rise in cases in Vietnam over the last few weeks has prompted the government to take quick measures to bring the situation under control.

They have reportedly decided to test everyone in Ho Chi Min City and put new social distancing rules in place to tackle the issue.

According to Nguyễn Thanh Long, the new variant which has been identified in 30 of the country's 63 provinces may be behind this sudden surge in cases, reported Associated Press.

What do we know about this new variant? FIT breaks it down.

Explained: What Do We Know About Hybrid COVID Variant in Vietnam

  1. 1. The basics of the viariant

    The variant, which is yet to be named, was identified using genomic sequencing by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemology, according the Vietnamese news website, VNExpress International.

    "Vietnam has uncovered a new COVID-19 variant combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK," the health minister was quoted as saying by Reuters.

    According to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, the variant is understood to be the B.1.617.2 variant with additional mutations.

    Expand
  2. 2. What makes this variant different from others?

    Lab studies, so far, point to the variant having characteristics of both the B.1.1.7 and the B.1.617.2 variants.

    This variant is said to be able to replicate quickly and spread rapidly through air. Moreover, it is said to do so by concentrating in the throat of the infected person.

    “The characteristic of this strain is that it spreads quickly in the air. The concentration of virus in the throat fluid increases rapidly and spreads very strongly to the surrounding environment.”
    Nguyễn Thanh Long, Health Minister, Vietnam
    Expand
  3. 3. Is it more dangerous?

    Vietnam's health minister has called it so and warned it transmits much faster than the original virus.

    Lab studies, however, are underway, although it is too early to gauge how exactly the variant will behave in actuality.

    It has been previously suggested that the B.1.617.2 variant is more likely to cause severe illness even in young people without any comorbidities.

    However, there has been no substantial evidence as of yet to conclude that any mutation of the COVID virus causes more severe illness.

    As is the case with all the other variants, the elderly and those with comorbidities are thought to be at a higher risk of serious complications.

    Expand
  4. 4. Will the COVID vaccines work against this variant?

    So far we don't have data on how well the COVID vaccines currently in use will fair against this new hybrid variant. But something we do have to go by is data regarding the two older variants involved here.

    It was established earlier on that the vaccines are effective against the B.1.1.7 variant.

    Last week, a study conducted by Public Health England (PHE) found that while two doses of the vaccine (AstraZeneca and Pfizer) provide 81 percent protection against the B.1.617.2 variant, while a single dose is considerably less effective when compared to the B.1.1.7 variant.

    Expand
  5. 5. Is it a variant of Concern?

    Not yet.

    The WHO has so far classified four COVID-19 variants as variants of concern, including the B.1.1.7, B.1.617.2, B.1.351 (first found in South Africa), P.1 (first identified in Brazil) variants.

    "At the present time, we have not yet made an assessment of the virus variant reported in Vietnam," Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for COVID-19 told Reuters in an email statement.

    In a press conference held on Saturday, 29 May, the health minister further announced that the genome data for the variant will be made public soon.

    (Written with inputs from Reuters, BBC, and Associated Press)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

The basics of the viariant

The variant, which is yet to be named, was identified using genomic sequencing by the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemology, according the Vietnamese news website, VNExpress International.

"Vietnam has uncovered a new COVID-19 variant combining characteristics of the two existing variants first found in India and the UK," the health minister was quoted as saying by Reuters.

According to Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, the variant is understood to be the B.1.617.2 variant with additional mutations.

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What makes this variant different from others?

Lab studies, so far, point to the variant having characteristics of both the B.1.1.7 and the B.1.617.2 variants.

This variant is said to be able to replicate quickly and spread rapidly through air. Moreover, it is said to do so by concentrating in the throat of the infected person.

“The characteristic of this strain is that it spreads quickly in the air. The concentration of virus in the throat fluid increases rapidly and spreads very strongly to the surrounding environment.”
Nguyễn Thanh Long, Health Minister, Vietnam

Is it more dangerous?

Vietnam's health minister has called it so and warned it transmits much faster than the original virus.

Lab studies, however, are underway, although it is too early to gauge how exactly the variant will behave in actuality.

It has been previously suggested that the B.1.617.2 variant is more likely to cause severe illness even in young people without any comorbidities.

However, there has been no substantial evidence as of yet to conclude that any mutation of the COVID virus causes more severe illness.

As is the case with all the other variants, the elderly and those with comorbidities are thought to be at a higher risk of serious complications.

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Will the COVID vaccines work against this variant?

So far we don't have data on how well the COVID vaccines currently in use will fair against this new hybrid variant. But something we do have to go by is data regarding the two older variants involved here.

It was established earlier on that the vaccines are effective against the B.1.1.7 variant.

Last week, a study conducted by Public Health England (PHE) found that while two doses of the vaccine (AstraZeneca and Pfizer) provide 81 percent protection against the B.1.617.2 variant, while a single dose is considerably less effective when compared to the B.1.1.7 variant.

Is it a variant of Concern?

Not yet.

The WHO has so far classified four COVID-19 variants as variants of concern, including the B.1.1.7, B.1.617.2, B.1.351 (first found in South Africa), P.1 (first identified in Brazil) variants.

"At the present time, we have not yet made an assessment of the virus variant reported in Vietnam," Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO's technical lead for COVID-19 told Reuters in an email statement.

In a press conference held on Saturday, 29 May, the health minister further announced that the genome data for the variant will be made public soon.

(Written with inputs from Reuters, BBC, and Associated Press)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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