Dr. Jeremy Myers, Acting Chief Medical Officer for the Turks and Caicos Islands is seeking to clarify that when Mu, the latest COVID-19 Variant, was discovered in the territory, the World Health Organization (WHO) had not assigned a name to it, and so, there was no name to give the public.
The Ministry of Health said in a news release on Wednesday that the variant was discovered in the last batch of results received from the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) for sequencing on 30th July 2021.
Speaking at a news conference late Wednesday, which included Minister of Health Hon. Jamell Robinson, Myers pointed out that because the variant had not been assigned a name, medical officials were only able to address it by its assigned code which is B.1.621.
“As a point of clarification, at the time that this was detected in the Turks and Caicos, it had not yet had the name ‘Mu’. Essentially, when we got our sequencing results on the 30th of July, at that time we were still using what we call a lineage name. B.1.621,” he Myers explained.
Myers, who was later supported by Minister Robinson, made the clarification against the accusation of medical cover-up charges from members of the public.
He pointed out that the WHO has not classified Mu as in the same category as other variants such as Delta, pointing out that the world health body classified it as ‘variant of interest’, rather than a ‘variant of concern’, which the WHO has assigned to Delta, Gamma, Beta and Alpha variants.
Inclusive of Mu, Myers said the WHO has recently named five variants of interests. The remaining four are Eta, Iota, Kappa and Lambda.
He pointed out that there are three main factors associated with the Variants of Concern.
Explaining the factors, he noted: “Variant of concern seems to have an increase in transmissibility or detrimental changes in COVID-19 epidemiology picture in terms of how it spreads or move through the community.
“Increase in virulence or change in the clinical disease presentation, meaning, it makes persons more sick, especially keynote of hospitalization, needing for respiratory assistance and of course, death.
“The third factor that is considered was a variant of concern is that of its effectiveness, particularly against social measures and diagnostics, as well as vaccines for example, and treatment such as therapeutics are also found to be reduced.”
Myers added that the Variants of Interest are known to affect genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape (ability to evade the body’s immune system), diagnostic or therapeutic escape, which is to reduce medicines’ efficacy.
“Essentially, the Variants of Concern are the ones that are more serious,” he emphasized, noting however, that Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest are all COVID-19, and can cause death, and so, one should seek to protect him/herself.
In the meantime, Dr. Myers has lauded those who have taken the vaccine, his colleagues, and other associates, who he said have been playing their part in assisting the TCI to return to normality.
“Thank you all, we are all in this together and we will continue to work to give us the coverage and herd immunity that we need to endure this pandemic. I would also like to thank the citizens for utilizing the protocols.
“These are the tried-and-true ways we can reduce transmission and spread of the COVID-19 virus as well as the effect on our population,” he said.
Up to Thursday, the number of confirmed cases worldwide stood at 222,405,582. The number of confirmed deaths were 4,592,934. The number of the vaccinated stood at 5,357,927,296.
The vaccination rate in the TCI as of September 6, is 70.3 percent, according to Dr. Myers. He said 77 percent of the population received at least one dose of the vaccine.