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New Covid vaccines on the way as 'Eris' variant rises

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Reuters - The World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are tracking a new, highly mutated lineage of the virus that causes COVID-19. Six cases in four countries have been detected since late July.

New Covid vaccine is due out next month, but health experts and analysts say it is likely to be coolly received even as hospitalizations from "Eris", a variant of the Omicron form of the coronavirus, rise around the USA.

Some public health experts hope that Americans will welcome the new shot as they would a flu jab. But demand for the vaccine has dropped sharply since 2021 when it first became available and more than 240 million people in the U.S., or 73% of the population, received at least one shot.

In the fall of 2022, by which time most people had either had the COVID virus or the vaccine, fewer than 50 million people got the shots.

Healthcare providers and pharmacies such as CVS Health (CVS.N) will start next month to offer the shot, updated to fight the Omicron version of the virus that has been dominant since last year.

They will be fighting declining concern about the virus, as well as fatigue and skepticism about the merits of this vaccine, Kaiser Family Foundation Director of Survey Methodology Ashley Kirzinger said.

"Public health officials, if they want to see a majority of adults get these annual vaccines, they're going to have to make the case to the American public that COVID isn't over and it still poses a risk to them," Kirzinger said.

Scientists are keeping an eye on the new lineage, named BA.2.86 because it has 36 mutations that distinguish it from the currently-dominant XBB.1.5 variant.

US FDA approves Regeneron's ultra-rare blood disease drug Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said on Friday the U.S. health regulator approved its drug to treat a rare blood disease.

The drug forelimb, branded as Veopoz, would treat CHAPLE disease in adult and pediatric patients 1 year of age and older.

US CDC tracks the new lineage of virus that causes COVID U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday that it was tracking a new, highly mutated lineage of the virus that causes COVID-19. The lineage is named BA.2.86, and has been detected in the United States, Denmark, and Israel, the CDC said in a post on messaging platform X.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Friday the first case of COVID-19 variant BA.2.86 had been detected in the country in an individual with no recent travel history.

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was tracking the new, highly mutated variant of the virus that causes COVID.

The World Health Organization is monitoring a new strain of Covid-19 called EG.5, or “Eris,” that accounts for a growing share of cases in countries including China and the United States.

The WHO has designated it a “variant of interest,” meaning it will be monitored for mutations that could make it more severe.

Based on current evidence, the organization says it presents a low public health risk at a global level, in line with other variants currently in circulation. In May, the WHO more broadly said Covid-19 was now “an established and ongoing health issue which no longer constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”

Symptoms and spread

Symptoms for Eris are reported to be the same as past variants, including a fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, runny nose, and change in taste and smell.

“While EG.5 has shown increased prevalence, growth advantage, and immune escape properties, there have been no reported changes in disease severity to date,” the WHO said in a risk evaluation published Wednesday.

It added that these properties may lead the variant to become dominant in some countries, or indeed globally.

The variant’s official name is EG.5, while “Eris” is a random nickname given online that subsequently popularized the EG.5.1 subvariant.

Based on sequencing information submitted to the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) as of Aug. 7, the largest portion of EG.5 cases were identified in China, followed by the U.S., South Korea, Japan, and Canada.

It was also identified in Australia, Singapore, the U.K., France, Portugal, and Spain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, EG.5 is now the dominant strain in the U.S., accounting for 17.3% of cases as of the week ended Aug. 5.

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