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Indian strain, vaccine efficacy and new EU entry regulations: top 5 coronavirus news

The third wave of the coronavirus pandemic in Ukraine has come to an end, the number of new patients remains relatively stable. The situation is improving in Europe as well. In particular, EU countries are starting to open borders for vaccinated tourists.

However, in some countries, the pandemic situation is not improving. For instance, in India, the number of deaths from coronavirus has exceeded 262,000. In addition, a new coronavirus strain is raging in the country that is more contagious. The Page has compiled the most interesting news about the coronavirus.


Indian strain of coronavirus

The WHO has classified the Indian strain of coronavirus as a "strain of global concern." Preliminary research show that the B.1.617 mutation found in India spreads more easily than other variants and requires further research.

In addition, this strain has already spread to over 30 countries. Earlier, the same designation was given to strains from the UK, South Africa, and Brazil.

A mutation gains the status from "variant of interest" to "variant of concern" when at least one of several criteria is present, including easy transmission, more severe disease, decreased antibody neutralization, or decreased efficacy of treatment and vaccination.

The strain is now being studied to determine if it is responsible for the exploding mortality rates in India that are currently overflowing hospitals and crematoria. Scientists do not yet know if this variant is more infectious or resistant to vaccines.


Are vaccines effective against new strains of coronavirus

Of greatest concern are the new coronavirus strains B.1.351 and P.1 that were first detected in South Africa and Brazil, respectively.

In particular, in clinical trials, some of the vaccines have lost their effectiveness against B.1.351, although some studies have also shown that immunization can provide adequate protection and generally protect against severe disease.

B.1.351 and some of its mutations have also shown in laboratory experiments some ability to "avoid" antibodies produced by vaccines that are in the blood of the vaccinated.

Studies of some vaccines have indicated that although B.1.351 can cause more breakthrough infections than other forms of the virus, vaccines still provide substantial protection against it, especially against serious illness and death.

Studies show that the P.1 strain has about the same or even less immunity-avoiding ability as B.1.351. This gives researchers confidence that vaccines can also resist this option.

Another strain of concern is B.1.617 found in India. It is this strain that can be the cause of mass mortality in the country. One subtype of this virus is slightly more resistant to vaccine-induced antibodies, although perhaps not to the same extent as B.1.351.

Moreover, there are a number of reports from India claiming that the vaccinated individuals fell ill anyway. However, it turned out that the vaccine still protects against severe disease.

Thus, even though some strains of coronavirus can cause breakthrough infections, vaccination is still the best way of protection against severe morbidity.


Best coronavirus vaccine: Pfizer or Moderna

The question remains, which of the vaccines is the best and gives more protection against coronavirus infection. At the World Vaccine Congress Washington, it was recognized that the medication of the American company Moderna is the best vaccine against coronavirus.

The Pfizer vaccine was also highly praised. According to research, the vaccine retains a high level of protection against coronavirus even six months after the second dose. Protection after the second Moderna vaccine lasts the same period.

The problem of the vaccine efficacy remains pressing, especially due to the increase in the number of strains. However, vaccines can recognize new strains, but their efficacy may be poorer.

For instance, studies have shown that the Pfizer vaccine is effective against a coronavirus strain that first appeared in South Africa. Pfizer-BioNTech is now testing a third dose of the vaccine in fully vaccinated people to see if an additional dose can help with new mutations.

Moderna is also testing a potential third dose of its current vaccine and a possible booster, specifically targeted at the South African variant.

During clinical trials, the Moderna vaccine was 94.1% effective in preventing COVID-19 in people who received both doses. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was believed to be 95% effective.

However, a new CDC study reported that the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer or Moderna was 80% effective in preventing infections. The efficacy rises to 90% two weeks after the second dose.

At the same time, Pfizer's vaccine is the only vaccine approved for use in children aged 12 years.


What vaccines have been approved by the EU and WHO

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and WHO have approved various vaccines. So far, none of the Chinese vaccines have been approved by the EU. This could negatively affect the ability to travel to Europe.

There are currently four vaccines accepted in the EU:

The list can be expanded with those vaccines recognized by WHO. It also includes AstraZeneca vaccines produced in South Korea and India (CoviShield) that are also used in Ukraine. The decision to be vaccinated with these medications is not only due to their availability, but also to the relative cheapness of vaccination in Ukraine, since the average price of one vaccine dose for Ukraine is $7.52.

At the same time, the European Commission is not yet considering the approval of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V.

However, some EU countries that are not part of the Schengen area are free to impose their own border crossing regulations. Thus, Cyprus has canceled quarantine for tourists vaccinated with drugs such as:

  • AstraZeneca;
  • Pfizer/BioNTech;
  • Moderna;
  • Sputnik V;
  • Johnson&Johnson.

What vaccines are approved by WHO

WHO has approved five medications that are used to vaccinate against coronavirus:

  • Moderna;
  • Pfizer/BioNTech;
  • Johnson&Johnson;
  • AstraZeneca;
  • Sinopharm.

New regulations for the vaccinated in the EU countries

The EU countries are massively changing the entry regulations for the vaccinated persons. For instance, Latvia has allowed vaccinated citizens from the countries of the European Union, the European Economic Area, Switzerland, or the United Kingdom not to self-isolate.

The regulations will apply to those persons who can provide evidence that 15 days have passed since the completion of the full vaccination course. The main condition is vaccination with medications approved by WHO and EMA.

Before electronic vaccination certificates are introduced in the country, a vaccination certificate form in Latvian and English will be introduced as a part of border crossing regulations.

Citizens of Great Britain, Iceland, and the Vatican can now enter Latvia without self-isolation.

Germany also relaxed the entry regulations. Since May 13, those fully vaccinated with EU-approved vaccines, as well as those who have recovered from the coronavirus, should no longer be quarantined and do a test upon arrival in the country.

All countries are divided into categories based on the coronavirus spread. For instance, self-isolation is mandatory for those who have traveled from countries with a high prevalence of new, more infectious variants of the coronavirus.

Those who arrived from regions with an incidence rate of 50 to 200 cases over the past seven days per 100,000 population are also exempted from mandatory quarantine. However, they are required to present a negative coronavirus test certificate.

Those arriving from high-risk regions, as before, are required to be quarantined and do the test in five days after arrival.

Spain and Greece will also open to those who have already been vaccinated or may present a negative coronavirus test result.