…As WHO recommends 2 new treatments

EMA lists rare spinal condition side effect of  AstraZeneca vaccine

By Sola Ogundipe 

Experts are warning that subsequent COVID-19 variants are likely to come after Omicron variant.

The warnings come as there’s no guarantee that subsequent variants will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them, underscoring the need for widespread vaccination.

The chance of the virus mutating increases with every infection, raising concerns as the highly contagious Omicron variant rapidly spreads.

Leonardo Martinez, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Boston University, said the faster omicron spreads, the more opportunities there are for mutation, potentially leading to more variants.

Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said it’s the longer, persistent infections that seem to be the most likely breeding grounds for new variants.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: 4th dose of vaccine shows limited results with omicron ― Study

“It’s only when you have very widespread infection that you’re going to provide the opportunity for that to occur.”

Preliminary research suggests that the highly contagious Omicron variant is more resistant to prior coronavirus infection than with other variants.

Initial studies also have found that coronavirus vaccines – particularly without a booster shot – are less effective against Omicron infections than other variants, although they appear to hold up well against severe disease.

WHO recommends 2 new COVID treatments

As new COVID-19 cases  spike around the world, the World Health Organisation, WHO, has  announced  two  new drugs – Baricitinib and Sotrovimab – for treatment of the disease.

The move which is essentially to serve lower-income countries that have struggled to contain the disease due to lack of vaccines and other medical necessities.

The WHO recommends baricitinib, an oral drug typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, for patients with severe or critical symptoms.

The global health body is also conditionally recommending use of  sotrovimab – a  monoclonal antibody drug for treating mild or moderate symptoms in patients at high risk of hospitalisation, including patients who are older, immunocompromised and unvaccinated.

“The extent to which these medicines will save lives depends on how widely available and affordable they will be,” the WHO  said in a release.

The recommendations are based on evidence from seven trials involving over 4,000 patients who exhibited a wide range of COVID symptoms.WHO said it is working to “secure global supply capacity and equitable and sustainable access to the newly recommended therapeutics.”

EMA lists rare spinal condition side effect of AstraZeneca vaccine

A safety panel of the European drug regulator the European Medicines Agency’s EMA, has said a rare spinal inflammation called transverse myelitis and recommended should be added as a side effect of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine..

Transverse myelitis is characterised by an inflammation of one or both sides of the spinal cord and can cause weakness in the arms or legs, sensory symptoms or problems with bladder or bowel function.

AstraZeneca has faced  probes following rare cases of severe side effects such as blood clots with low platelets, which led to several countries restricting or stopping its use in 2021.

Following a review of the data, the committee concluded that a causal relationship between the two vaccines and transverse myelitis is at least a reasonable possibility, but added that the benefit-risk profile of both vaccines remains unchanged.

The regulatory agency did not provide any information on how many such cases have been reported after the vaccination was given but said transverse myelitis has been added as an adverse reaction of unknown frequency to the vaccines’ product information.

Reports of the serious neurological illness was also at the heart of trial halts in the early stages of development for both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson’s shots, which are based on similar technology.

updating the product information for AstraZeneca’s vaccine regarding rare blood clotting with a low platelet count following the first shot, to say fewer such side effects were observed after the second dose.

Among 1,809 cases of the condition called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome reported worldwide, it said 1,643 were reported after the first dose and 166 after the second.

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