According to Ugandan scientists, the virus keeps on mutating due to pressure from vaccines and therapeutics. They say the only way Ugandans will be able to protect themselves is by adhering to SOPs and getting vaccinated using newer versions of vaccines formulated to deal with new variants
The world at large will continuously see new COVID-19 variants of concern for years to come, Ugandan Scientists have warned.
This warning comes following the emergence of a new variant of concern that has been reported in the southern part of Africa and affects countries such as South Africa, Botswana and Eswatini. Reports from these countries show a rise in COVID-19 cases that are being linked to the variant.
Last week, the World Health Organisation announced a new COVID-19 variant, called Omicron that is believed to be more virulent than the Delta variant which led to the peak of the second COVID-19 wave experienced in June and July this year. According to WHO, studies are ongoing to better understand the effect of the virus on vaccinated people. The variant is of concern because its spikes are believed to have five other mutations.
During an interview with URN, scientists intimated that such variants of concern should be expected for years to come since the original COVID-19 variant from Wuhan will continuously try to find new ways to survive due to the introduction of vaccines and therapeutics.
Lt Col Dr Henry Kyobe, the national COVID-19 incident commander says such variants can emerge from anywhere and should be anticipated.
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Dr Monica Musenero, an epidemiologist and microbiologist and also the minister of Science, Technology and Innovation says for the next ten years or more, Uganda and the whole world will likely see more COVID-19 variants.
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Early this month, Lt Col Dr Henry Kyobe intimated that investment in core priorities is needed if the country is to go through a third wave of COVID-19 and have a functional health sector. According to Dr Kyobe, more investment in community health facilities is needed to respond to an increase in infections that might take place at household levels.
Uganda is currently carrying out research in vaccine production. Dr Musenero says using current technology present in the country, it is possible to manufacture a vaccine that will be able to protect against the new variant.
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Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the executive director of Uganda Virus Research Institute told URN that the new variant is yet to be detected in the country. He however says that as the country starts to carry out sequencing to detect it, it is important for all persons to adhere to the SOPs and also get vaccinated against COVID-19.
To date, Uganda has received more than 15 million COVID-19 vaccines. In spite of such figures, Musenero says these vaccines might prove not to be effective against COVID-19.
According to Musenero, the vaccines the country currently has are more effective with the previous variant of the disease and not this new one.
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Lt Col Kyobe says due to the easy spread of the disease, the county will continue putting up strict measures at points of entry like compulsory testing at the airport as a means to protect the country.
As of November 27, Uganda had reported a total of 127,485 cases of COVID-19, more than 56 percent of which were reported during the second wave which was propelled by the Delta variant. So far 3,252 people have died from the disease in Uganda in almost two years.