Scott Gottlieb said on Monday, Oct. 18, that the new delta plus variant (AY.4) of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) could require more booster shots.
According to Gottlieb’s Twitter post, the delta plus variant may have “partial immune evasion,” which was cited as a reason for people needing booster shots during the delta variant panic earlier in this year.
The former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner and current Pfizer board member added that the delta plus variant has been recorded in the U.K. since July and it has been slowly increasing in prevalence.
It remains to be seen if it’s more transmissible, but Gottlieb emphasized the importance of quickly characterizing AY.4 and other new coronavirus variants. (Related: FDA staffers undecided on Covid booster shots due to lack of data.)
Gottlieb noted that the public should remain calm and that “robust systems” will be key to identifying new coronavirus variants. He concluded that global efforts must be coordinated in the same vein as international efforts for addressing influenza, an illness that doesn’t really require vaccines.
British health experts keep tabs on delta variant mutations
On Tuesday, Oct. 19, health experts in the U.K. urged the British government to bring back some coronavirus restrictions because of the skyrocketing rates of infections and hospitalizations in the country.
Health leaders cautioned that the U.K. may struggle with a “winter crisis” if the government does not enact its “Plan B,” a pledge it made back in September 2021. Under “Plan B,” the U.K. would reimpose coronavirus measures if data showed that the National Health Service (NHS) is “likely to come under unsustainable pressure.”
As of writing, the U.K. is recording between 40,000 and 50,000 new coronavirus cases daily. The number of hospitalizations and deaths is also increasing.
The U.K. reported 43,738 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, a decrease from Monday when 49,156 new cases were recorded, marking the country’s highest daily number in three months. On Tuesday, 223 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported, bringing the total number of fatalities to 138,852 – putting the U.K among the top five countries with the highest COVID-19 death tolls in the world.
Experts in the U.K. are also keeping a close eye on a new mutation of the delta variant known as AY.4.2, which is highly infectious and is the dominant version of the coronavirus worldwide. AY.4.2 is linked to an increasing number of coronavirus cases in the U.K. Some believe AY.4.2 might be another possible factor in rising case numbers.
According to the U.K. Health Security Agency (UKHSA), AY.4.2 includes spike mutations A222V and Y145H. As of Sept. 27, the last week with complete sequencing data, AY.4.2 was responsible for at least six percent of all sequences generated, on an increasing trajectory.
The agency has warned that the figure may be inaccurate, and experts are still assessing the situation. Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, has advised that AY.4.2 must be carefully controlled and tightly monitored.
The delta variant has been the dominant mutant in several regions in the U.K. for six months and it hasn’t been displaced by any other variant. Altmann notes that in a best-case scenario, the delta variant could represent “the peak mutation performance achievable by the virus.”
However, AY.4 is starting to raise doubts about this assertion.
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