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Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

Lisa Schnirring | News Editor | CIDRAP News

After a 5-week drop, global COVID-19 cases stabilized last week, though deaths continued to decline, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today in its weekly update on the pandemic.

Cases were down in all but one of the six world regions, with the biggest drop in African countries (-35%). Cases were up 3% in the Western Pacific and down only 1% in Europe.

Of more than 3.2 million new cases reported last week, the five countries reporting the most were Japan, the United States, South Korea, Russia, and China. In the previous week, officials reported 3.1 million new COVID cases.

Meanwhile, deaths declined 17% from the previous week, with countries reporting more than 9,800 fatalities to the WHO.

The WHO has urged caution in interpreting COVID patterns, given decreases in testing and fewer SARS-CoV-2 sequences submitted for analysis.

Diversifying Omicron subvariants

In its latest update on variants, the WHO said the Omicron variant continues to dominate and become more diversified. There are now more than 230 Omicron descendants and more than 30 recombinants. During the final days of August and into September, the BA.5 subvariant made up 76.6% of sequences, with BA.4 accounting for 7.5%.

The WHO is closely tracking six Omicron subvariant lineages, with proportions of BA.2.75—with its nine extra spike mutations—low but rising. So far, 48 countries have detected it, with most sequences reported from India. BA.2.75.2 has three additional spike mutations, and the United States is among the countries in which levels are slowly increasing.

Officials are also monitoring other emerging BA.5 subvariants that have spread to new locations. So far, prevalence is low, but numbers have been rising over the past 4 weeks.

US clears release of more Moderna boosters

Amid reports of shortages of Moderna’s updated booster shots, the agency will soon release 10 million doses that were held back due to safety reviews at an Indiana plant that is bottling the packaging the product, according to the Washington Post.

Last month, inspectors raised questions about sterility and checked for contamination as part of routine safety reviews, unnamed people with knowledge of the process told the Post.

FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum told the Post that yesterday, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized distribution of numerous batches of the updated Moderna booster that were packaged at the Catalent facility in Bloomington. He added that the FDA has no concerns about the safety, effectiveness, and quality of the batches.

Federal officials have pinned their hopes for avoiding a new COVID surge by quickly rolling out doses of the updated booster shots.

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