Experts worry China's COVID-19 wave could spur new variant

The COVID-19 crisis in China is creating more opportunities for the virus to change, spurring concern that a new variant could emerge, CBS News reported Dec. 25. 

"China has a population that is very large and there's limited immunity. And that seems to be the setting in which we may see an explosion of a new variant," Stuart Campbell Ray, MD, infectious disease expert at Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University, told the news outlet. 

China's recent loosening of its "zero COVID-19" policy has led to a severe surge in infections, with images and videos showing overwhelmed hospitals and reports of healthcare workers being forced to work while infected, The New York Times reports. The number of infections and deaths is unclear, though an official in the Zhejiang Province estimated there were more than one million new COVID-19 cases a day in the region, according to the Times. Right now, omicron subvariant BF. 7 is believed to be driving up cases in Beijing. 

China's population also has less immunity due to lower vaccination rates, especially among older adults, which experts also say is a large factor in the explosion of cases the country is now seeing. Additionally, vaccines used in China rely on an older technology that produces fewer antibodies than mRNA vaccines, according to CBS

"When we've seen big waves of infection, it's often followed by new variants being generated," Dr. Ray said. 


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