Will the next SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern originate in an low-vaccination nation?

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The World Health Organization has (as of January 2022) identified several variants of SARS-CoV-2, 5 of which are designated as variants of concern. This designation indicates that the variant is more serious than previous variants of the virus, in that it is more transmissible, or evades current vaccinations or treatments. According to the WHO, 4 of the variants of concern emerged before vaccinations were available or widely deployed. Around 25-28% of South Africans had recieved at least 1 dose of a COVID vaccine at the time the omicron variant was identified there, while the global average vaccination share was around 50%.

Dr. William Schaffner from the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said to CNN in July 2021 "Unvaccinated people are potential variant factories [...] The more unvaccinated people there are, the more opportunities for the virus to multiply [...] When it does, it mutates, and it could throw off a variant mutation that is even more serious down the road."

Dr. Amesh Adalja, from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said to Poynter in August 2021, "The delta variant emerged in a largely unvaccinated country [...] The more the virus spreads, the more chance there is for variants to emerge."

Will the next SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern originate in an low-vaccination nation?

This question will resolve positively if the next variant of concern originates from a country with a lower share of the population vaccinated than the global average.

This question will use the WHO to determine the country of origin. If, like for omicron, they only list "multiple countries", we will consult cov-lineages, or wait for a epidemiological consensus to emerge.

A country will be considered a "low-vaccination nation" if Our World in Data shows the share of population who have recieved at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is lower than the global average during the period when the variant is estimated to have emerged.

This question will resolve as ambiguous if there is no new variant of concern between January 1, 2022 to January 1, 2024.

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The World Health Organization has (as of January 2022) identified several variants of SARS-CoV-2, 5 of which are designated as variants of concern. This designation indicates that the variant is more serious than previous variants of the virus, in...

Last updated: 2022-08-08
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Metaculus
Forecasts: 37

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