Greek Alphabet Names For Covid Variants


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The World Health Organization has proposed new names for Coronavirus variants using letters from the Greek alphabet.

To-day, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced new naming convention for the new variants of the coronavirus variants. In a move avoid stigma to the current naming system based on their place of the first discovery, the new WHO proposes to name the variants after letters of the Greek.

The WHO reportedly said that the new naming labels “do not replace existing scientific names involving numbers, Roman letters and full stops, which convey important scientific information and will continue to be used in research”.

No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead for Covid-19 response, in a Twitter Post

In the Forbes, JV Chamary writes: “Naming variants after a geographical location — such as a country — is misleading because a variant that was initially identified in a particular place didn’t necessarily emerge from there, but people can still be blamed for the spread of a Covid variant.”

The WHO said: “While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall and are prone to misreporting … As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatising and discriminatory. [..] To avoid this and to simplify public communications, [the] WHO encourages national authorities, media outlets and others to adopt these new labels.”

Covid Variants of Concern

Following the proposed naming convention, WHO has named four variants of concern, commonly known as the UK/Kent (B.1.1.7), South Africa (B.1.351), Brazil (P.1) and India (B.1.617.2) variants are to be named with the Greek letters Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta respectively, to reflect their order of detection.

Screenshot source: WHO

Covid Variants of Interest

The covid variants of interest, would likewise will follow the following WHO naming convention.

Screenshot source: WHO

In The Guardian, Edna Mohamed writes “Historically, diseases have frequently been named after the locations they were thought to have developed, such as the Ebola virus, which takes its name from the Congolese river. However, such associations can be damaging for those places and are often inaccurate, as is the case with the ‘Spanish flu‘ of 1918, whose origins are unknown.”

There is a discussion in an article for the journal Science, researchers concluded that “scientific and media reports should not refer to variants by country names, [but] mutation-based or lineage names are difficult to say and write.”

Chamary in Forbes describes earlier efforts of using alternative names for covid variants including how WHO came into the current naming labels for the covid variants.

In CNN interview Monday, Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security told “It would have been good to have thought about this nomenclature early and it will be difficult to now persuade people to start using the Greek alphabet labels”.

“There’s definitely issues with stigmatization where the variants are being described and then labeling them based on that country. We know that there’s already backlash in India, regarding the Indian variant and people mentioning it that way. So, I understand why it’s happening. I think it’s just a lot for people to think about this far down the line.”

Quoting WHO bacteriologist Mark Pallen, The Guardian writes, “the decision to go for this naming system came after months of deliberations with experts considering a range of other possibilities such as Greek Gods”.

Coronavirus-19 vaccination watch

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of May 30, 9 a.m.) 366,316,945 doses have been distributed and 294,928,850 doses administered. According MDH COVID-19 Response vaccine data (as of May 28) a total of 5,288,830 doses of Covid-19 (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines have been administered in Minnesota. According to the MDH latest tally (as of May 30) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 601,384 (out of 9,946,608 tested) with 7,426 deaths.