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From Moscow to Mississippi, COVID’s Delta variant is spreading fast

Moscow health authorities reported 9,056 positive tests on Friday, the highest daily figure for the city since the pandemic began.

In the US, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centres for Disease control, appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to say she expected delta to “probably” become the nation’s most common strain soon as she urged Americans to get vaccinated.

“It’s more transmissible than the Alpha variant or UK variant that we have here. We saw that quickly become the dominant strain in a period of one or two months,” Walensky said. “I anticipate that is going to be what happens with the Delta strain here.”

A woman exiting a metro station in Moscow, where COVID cases are rising at record rates.

A woman exiting a metro station in Moscow, where COVID cases are rising at record rates. Credit:AP

Swaminathan also voiced her disappointment in the failure of Germany’s CureVac’s vaccine, in particular as highly transmissible variants boost the need for new, effective shots.

Coronavirus variants were cited by CureVac when the German company this week reported its vaccine proved only 47 per cent effective at preventing disease, shy of the WHO’s 50 per cent benchmark.

The company said it documented at least 13 variants circulating within its study population.

Given that similar mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna posted efficacy rates topping 90 per cent, Swaminathan said the world had been expecting more from CureVac’s candidate.

“Just because it’s another mRNA vaccine, we cannot presume all mRNA vaccines are the same, because each one has a slightly different technology,” Swaminathan said, adding the surprise failure underscored the value of robust clinical trials to test new products.

WHO officials said Africa remains an area of concern, even though it accounts for only around 5 per cent of new global infections and 2 per cent of deaths.

New cases in Namibia, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Rwanda have doubled in the last week, WHO emergencies programme head Mike Ryan said, while vaccine access remains minuscule.

“It’s a trajectory that is very, very concerning,” Ryan said. “The brutal reality is that in an era of multiple variants, with increased transmissibility, we have left vast swathes of the population, the vulnerable population of Africa, unprotected by vaccines.”

Reuters, McClatchy, The New York Times

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