Rodney Raub: Back with WHO before we left
News of the discovery of more contagious forms of the COVID-19 virus from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa was overshadowed by the announcement on Jan. 11 that World Health Organization virologists have detected over 350,000 variations, or mutations, of the COVID-19 genetic code.
Last Monday, the WHO convened a virtual COVID-19 forum attended by 1,750 medical experts from 140 countries to share the latest developments in the pandemic, including the large number of mutations or variants detected in the virus.
It is normal for viruses to mutate, but the more the coronavirus spreads, the more opportunities it has to change. High levels of transmission mean that we should expect more variants to emerge, according to Dr. Ana Maria Henao Restrepo, WHO vaccine expert.
The percentage of new COVID-19 infections caused by the new forms of the virus, as high as 25% in some locations, is a sign the new variant is more easily transmitted. The WHO is working to determine if the new variants will render COVID-19 vaccines less effective.
Former President Donald Trump’s announcement back in April 2020 stated that he would withdraw the U.S. from the WHO and redirect our $400 million annual contribution seemed the epitome of bad timing. Trump’s decision was quickly overshadowed by developments in the growing pandemic.
Fortunately, withdrawal from the WHO, like most United Nations organizations, is a slow process. Officially, the U.S. won’t leave the WHO until July this year. Thankfully, President Biden has already announced day one of his administration the United States will rejoin the WHO.
Meantime, the WHO has continued to lead and coordinate with the global medical community to prevent, detect and respond to the pandemic. The WHO’s goal is to stay current with COVOD-19 virus changes and to monitor their impact on the efficacy of existing COVID-19 vaccines.
Rodney Raub is on the board of directors of the Golden Empire Chapter of the United Nations Association. For more information, call 530-432-7752.
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