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Are current vaccines effective against the new coronavirus variant?

Following the World Health Organization’s announcement of a rapidly spreading new coronavirus variant (JN.1), concerns have arisen amongst the public about the effectiveness of current vaccines against the new strain.

The WHO has clarified in a recent statement that current vaccines can still protect against severe illness and death due to JN.1 mutant and other circulating variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19).

The WHO organization advised following up on vaccinations against coronavirus and influenza, especially for those at high risk of severe illness.


Current vaccines still effective

A member of the Scientific Committee to Combat Coronavirus at Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population, Ahmed Shawky, said that although JN.1 differs from its parent strain (BA.2.86), current vaccines are still effective in providing protection and preventing serious infections and death.


The cause of the new strain

According to Shawky, the winter season sees temperatures drop and rates of infection with viral respiratory diseases to increase.

The rate of transmission and spread of respiratory viruses increases the frequency and chance of genetic mutations for a virus to better infect more hosts, he added.

Shawky said that “JN.1”, first discovered in the US in September, is of particular interest to the WHO due to its escalating global infection rate.

This requires monitoring and following up the infected cases to determine the extent of the danger of the new mutant, which he assured is still low.


Tips to avoid infection

Shawky advised people and groups most at risk of infection with respiratory viruses, especially the elderly, patients with heart diseases, chest diseases, and the immune system, to adhere to precautionary measures such as social distancing, wearing face-mask in crowded places, and avoiding closed, poorly ventilated spaces.

Medical care must be sought if any symptoms of suspected viral infection appear in order to conduct diagnostic tests and research, he said.


Symptoms less severe for the vaccinated

The Chairman of the Scientific Committee to Combat Coronavirus Hossam Hosni, said that though JN.1 is rapidly spreading, it is not very dangerous.

Symptoms appear less severely in those vaccinated with coronavirus vaccines compared to those who are not vaccinated.

He explained that so far, not a single case globally has been admitted to intensive care.

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