The statement is disturbing. The Sars-CoV-2 variant detected at the end of 2019 in England, more contagious, “could be associated with a higher level of mortality”Prime Minister Boris Johnson said at a press conference on Friday January 22. “We were informed today that in addition to its faster spread, there also now appears to be some evidence that the new variant – the variant which was first discovered in London and the south-east (from l ‘England) – could be associated with a higher level of mortality “, said the British Prime Minister, without giving more details on the source of this information.
All currently available evidence shows that the two vaccines used in the UK, Pfizer-BioNtech and AstraZeneca-Oxford, remain effective against both old and new variants of the coronavirus, he added.
So far, the variant ncalled B.1.1.7 or VUI-202012/01 (for Variant Under Investigation n ° 1 of December 2020) is known to be more contagious, by up to 70%, than the current form of the virus. The United Kingdom, which decided to reconfine its population in disaster when it launched its vaccination campaign, is currently facing very heavy daily tolls in terms of deaths. He identified 1,401 additional deaths on Friday, against 1,290 the day before. And this while, Wednesday, January 20, some 5.5 million people had been vaccinated in the country.
For men in their 60s, the risk of mortality reaches 13 to 14 in 1,000 with the new variant, compared with 10 in 1,000 with the previous form of the virus, compared the government’s scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance. . “I want to stress that there are a lot of uncertainties around these figures”, he nuanced, but there is a “concern that there has been an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility”.
Studies are underway around the world to determine the reasons for this increased contagiousness. Other variants, including one initially detected in South Africa, are also worrying the international community. “They have certain characteristics that make them less sensitive to vaccines” and are “more worrying” that the British variant, judged Patrick Vallance.
On Twitter, Professor François Balloux, director of the Institute of Genetics at University College London and specialist in virus genomics, urges these statements to be taken with caution. According to him, this excess mortality could also be explained by stress in intensive care units, seasonality or other factors.
There might be some truth in this claim (or not). Case fatality rates in the UK over recent weeks may be compatible with infection with B 1.1.7 being associated to a marginally worse outcome, but this could equally be explained by strained ICUs, seasonality or whatnot.
1 / https://t.co/ozKVSFg5SH
– Prof Francois Balloux (@BallouxFrancois) January 22, 2021
According to this specialist, Nervtag, a committee of experts from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, “undoubtedly has access to much better data (i.e. the death rates of patients infected with B 1.1.7 or other variants, corresponding to the day of admission and other variables keys). Given the importance of the issue, I think the data should be made public. “, pleads Francois Balloux.