World Health Organization Warns About Dangerous Variants of COVID-19
- The World Health Organization said on Thursday that the global COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and warned of dangerous variants that could emerge.
- Four variants now account for close to 90% of new infections in the U.S.: Delta (51.7%), Alpha (28.7%), Gamma (8.9%) and Beta (0.2%).
- Booster shots may soon be available for cancer patients to increase antibody count, but until then, oncologists agree masks must be worn to stay protected.
In a press conference on Thursday, the international organization reminded the world that the pandemic is far from over, as the delta variant surges in every corner of the globe.Read More
Those three states are also among the handful that have passed legislation banning vaccine requirements. Tennessee, where cases rose 429% in the past two weeks, went so far as to fire a public official who attempted to inform teenagers they could be vaccinated without their parents’ consent.
“The Committee has expressed concern that the pandemic is being mischaracterized as coming to an end when it is nowhere near finished,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization. “It has also warned about the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control.”
The delta variant is the fourth major variant to emerge since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the two prominent variants currently circulating in the United States. The first of those variants, alpha, was found to be 60% more contagious than the initial virus. Delta is believed to be 60% more contagious than Alpha.
So if an individual had a 10% chance of catching COVID-19, the risk would rise to 16% with the Alpha variant and 25.6% chance with the Delta variant. Should a dangerous new variant emerge and follow the trends of the first two, a person would have a 41% chance of becoming infected by that variant.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that as of January 9, the Delta variant accounted for 51.7% of new inflections followed by Alpha (28.7%), Gamma (8.9%) and Beta (O.2%). This means the initial virus is responsible for only 10% of cases now in the United States.
How Cancer Patients Can Stay Protected From Dangerous Variants of COVID-19
These warning of new dangerous variants from the World Health Organization should not be cause for panic in cancer patients.
Multiple oncologists tell SurvivorNet that wearing a mask is still the best way for cancer patients to avoid contracting or spreading the virus as the dangerous Delta variant spreads.
At the same time, a game-changing COVID-19 booster may soon be available for cancer patients who are looking to develop or maintain antibodies against the virus.
SurvivorNet recently spoke with multiple oncologists who were strongly in favor of these booster shots, which Moderna plans to roll out in November and Pfizer is trying to offer in August.
Dr. Paul G. Richardson, clinical program leader and director of clinical research at the Jerome Lipper Multiple Myeloma Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, noted however that getting vaccinated is just one of many steps cancer patients should be taking at this time.
“The key is the success of vaccinations, but other strategies in my [multiple myeloma] patients focus on continued precautions, and attention to therapeutics – not least as the variants are such a concern,” explained Dr. Richardson.
“We are moving from pandemia to endemia and as such long-term adjustments and continued caution are inevitable in terms of treatments for underlying and supportive care. Fortunately, however, we are moving towards a more manageable paradigm of therapy/care, although the danger of SARS CoV2 remains clear and present.”
Individuals with cancers of the blood, those who are undergoing chemotherapy, or patients who recently had any sort of stem cell transplant are the most vulnerable due to the increased risk that their bodies may not produce any antibodies against COVID-19 even after receiving two doses of the vaccination.
That is why masks are so important for individuals with cancer.
“The problem with a lot of the variants, especially the Delta variant and others, is that if you have a low immune response or low antibody titer, which many of these (cancer) patients would have, it may not be protective against getting an infection,” explained Dr. John N. Greene, chief of infectious diseases at the Moffitt Cancer Center..
“So for these immunosuppressed cancer patients, there is no guarantee that their vaccine is effective because [antibody testing] is not recommended outside of a research setting to actually measure their immune response or their antibody levels. And therefore, since it remains a mystery, they should continue to wear a mask and not go into large crowds where people could infect them and others visiting them.”
He continued: “I think that’s pretty sound logic because these immunosuppressed patients and people are at higher risk of serious illness if they were to catch COVID-19.”
Dr. Amrita Krishnan, director of the Judy and Bernard Briskin Center for Multiple Myeloma Research at City of Hope, told SurvivorNet that she continues to urge her patients – many of whom are at a high risk of not producing antibodies – to wear a mask and social distance.
Dr. Jana Dickter, also from City of Hope,said that it is not just those with cancer who nned to be careful.
“I would also suggest that patients advocate for themselves by having close relatives, family members, and household contacts get vaccinated,” Dr. Dickter told Survivor Net.
There may also be a third option in the near future, ads a special vaccine is currently in development.
The National Cancer Institute is sponsoring a trial for a vaccine that is specifically designed to protect individuals with cancer from contracting COVID-19. That trial is still in the recruiting stages.