The new ‘Kraken’ COVID variant is infecting over 60 million Chinese people a week, according to Professor Luke O’Neill.
Last week, Trinity College Dublin professor of biochemistry Luke O’Neill attended an immunological conference in Canada.
The Trinity professor said the best way to protect yourself from virus variants is to get immunised – with a new jab specifically designed to target the ‘Kraken’ likely to be available by the autumn.
He said the variant is “highly infectious and rapidly spreading” – but China is dealing well with the surge.
“The good news actually is it doesn't cause any more severe disease,” he said.
Speaking to The Pat Kenny Show, Professor O’Neill said one-third of talks at the conference focused on COVID.
“We're in the middle of this huge amount of cases going through the roof,” he said.
“China reopened in December, and then that was a pretty unvaccinated population – maybe 50% to 60% vaccination.
“They reckon 85% of the people of China got infected within a couple of months.”
The Kraken variant
The latest variant of COVID, XBB.1.5, nicknamed “Kraken,” is a highly infectious, rapidly spreading variant, according to the professor.
“We're talking about 60 million people a week getting infected in China," he said.
Professor O’Neill said China has now grown their vaccination rate to 90% vaccination.
“The health system isn't being overwhelmed there at the moment even though cases are through the roof.
“It's not causing severe disease because of vaccination.”
Professor O’Neill said immunologists are working toward developing a booster vaccine against the Kraken variant.
“I bet you'll see by the autumn, XBB.1.5 will be available as part of the vaccine,” he said.
“Once immunity builds up, you have protection now against multiple variants.
“Early on of course is very little protection, hence the massive death rate and cases going through the roof.
“So far, a very nasty strain hasn't emerged, thankfully.”
Professor O’Neill said the best way to combat variants is vaccination.
“Every time you roll the dice, there's a risk of a new variant,” he said.
“You can imagine with 65 million people a week getting infected, that increases the chance even more of a new variant emerging.
“The vaccines are the answer because they lower the whole replication process.
“The vaccines are giving protection against severe disease, but they aren't that good at stopping infection.
“So, there are two reasons to take the vaccine now – one is to stop dying and severe disease, but secondly, the chance of long COVID has lessened.
“Everybody over 70 should turn up for their booster, not just because of the risk of severe disease, but also a decreased risk of long COVID.”
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