By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
NEW YORK (Worthy News) – Shares in major COVID-19 vaccine makers briefly spiked Monday after U.S. President Joe Biden confirmed he would seek funding from Congress to support the development of new COVID-19 jabs.
The announcement came as U.S. health authorities and other governments watched several new COVID-19 variants emerging worldwide, including in Asia.
“Authorities here already talk about new variants, but I don’t want to get vaccinated again,” a Christian woman in Indonesia told Worthy News, referring to reports of side effects.
Christians and churches have been divided over whether to take COVID-19 jabs for an illness with a roughly 99 percent survival rate.
Doctors supporting previous vaccinations say vaccinated people can still get infected but claim these “breakthrough” cases are rare and jabs reduce severe illness and death.
However, other doctors doubted whether the potential risks of COVID-19 vaccines outweigh the benefits for healthy younger people and even elderly persons.
Yet Biden indicated that he might request a universal vaccination, which would include both those who have previously been vaccinated and those who have not.
During his time in the Lake Tahoe region, President Biden was asked by a reporter to express his views on the reported surge in COVID-19 cases and the new variants.
“Yes, I can,” Biden said Friday. “I signed off this morning on a proposal we have to present to Congress, a request for additional funding for a new vaccine that is necessary and effective.”
He added, “Tentatively, it is recommended that it will likely be recommended everybody get it no matter whether they’ve gotten it before or not.”
Authorities also suggested there may be new mask rules in the United States as the world’s leading economy tries to reduce the impact of a possible new pandemic.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has yet to announce new mask mandates, some schools and businesses are reinstating this familiar pandemic-era rule.
“People 65-plus and people who are immunocompromised should strongly consider masking during flu, RSV, COVID season while in indoor public spaces,” said Dr. Céline Gounder, a CBS News broadcaster medical contributor and editor-at-large for public health at KFF Health News. “And for everyone else — it all depends on what their risk tolerance is.”
Not all experts and even politicians agree, citing concerns about the quality of masks and the impact on mental and physical health.
The discussion comes as the U.S. and other nations watch at least two fairly prevalent variants and one — the highly mutated variant — that is not as widespread for now.
The EG.5 variant is believed to be the “dominant” strain in the U.S. because it comprises the largest share of new cases of COVID-19 compared to other variants. On August 18, the CDC estimated that EG 5 made up 20.6 percent of new infections.
Behind EG.5 – unofficially nicknamed “Eris” by virus tracker T. Ryan Gregory on social media – is a long list of other closely related variants, virtually all of which descended from the dominant XBB strains last winter.
FL.1.5.1 is the next-largest strain on the menu at 13.3 percent of U.S. infections, according to CDC estimates. Dubbed “Fornax” by Gregory, FL.1.5.1 nearly doubled from the week prior when it was an estimated 7.1 percent of circulating variants, U.S. media reported.
Both EG.5 and FL.1.5.1 are XBB variant descendants that share a mutation known as F456L, which appears to be helping them spread more than other virus siblings.
Authorities have also been tracking a new highly mutated strain of the virus called BA.2.86. That strain was nicknamed “Pirola” by user @JPWeiland on social media.
BA.2.86’s prevalence remains too small to show up on the CDC estimates and is currently being aggregated with its distant ancestor BA.2, experts say. Yet, as COVID-variants with fancy and less fancy names are spreading throughout the world, a debate is also spreading about how humans should respond to pandemics in the near future.
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