WHO hosts special meeting on worrying new COVID-19 variant

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FILE – A child winces as he receives his Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 in Diepsloot Township near Johannesburg, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2021. A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country’s most populous province. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell, File)

GENEVA (AP) — Advisers to the World Health Organization are holding a special session to flesh out information about a worrying new variant of the coronavirus that has been detected in South Africa, though its impact on COVID-19 vaccines may not be known for weeks.

The technical advisory group on the evolution of COVID-19 was meeting virtually to discuss the so-called B.1.1.529 variant that has caused stock markets to swoon and led the European Union to recommend a pause in flights to southern Africa.

The group could decide if it’s a “variant of concern” — the most worrying type, like the well-known delta variant — or a “variant of interest,” and whether to use a Greek letter to classify it.

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