What we know about deltacron, yet another COVID variant

Evan Moore
The Charlotte Observer (TNS)

Just as COVID-19 cases have declined and mask mandates are no more, scientists have identified a new variant of the virus.

The new variant, deltacron, has been identified in the U.S. and at least three European countries, health officials announced last week.

Since immunity to the virus is expected to wane over time, Pfizer suggested a new measure to protect people from serious illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19.

What is deltacron?

Deltacron is a variant that contains elements from both the omicron and delta variants. Because deltacron includes genes from both stains, it is known as a “recombinant virus,” according to the World Health Organization.

Where has deltacron been found?

GISAID, a global community of scientists that shares virus information, announced the variant had been detected in France.

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“Genomes with a similar profile have also been identified in Denmark and The Netherlands,” GISAID said.

Two cases of deltacron have been identified in the U.S., according to a study published by scientists in California. There have also been reports of a few cases in the UK.

Are the symptoms of deltacron more severe?

Since there are so few cases, scientists don’t know much about the variant, according to WHO scientists.

“We haven’t seen any change in severity,” WHO COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove said at a recent news conference. “But there are many studies that are underway.”

How fast does deltacron spread?

WHO scientists predicted that the variant could spread rapidly, but didn’t suggest how quickly compared to other strains.

“We’re seeing a very intense level of circulation,” Van Kerkhove said. “We are seeing this virus infect animals, with the possibility of infecting humans again. So again, the pandemic is far from over.”

Will you need another booster?

A fourth dose of the COVID-19 will be necessary to keep hospitalizations down and manage the severity of infections, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CBS.

“Variants are coming and omicron was the first one, but we also know that the duration of the protection doesn’t last very long,” Bourla said.

A fourth dose has already been authorized for some immunocompromised people, but the FDA has not yet approved another round of boosters for the general population.

When will my child be eligible for the booster?

Right now, children ages 5 to 11 are eligible for two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, but the company is testing a third dose in that age group, according to Bourla.

A three-dose trial dose for children under five is also underway, and Pfizer could have data on the trial as early as next month. The vaccine could be available for distribution in May if it is approved by the FDA, Bourla said.