Vietnam has discovered a new COVID-19 variant that’s a hybrid of strains first found in India and the UK, the Vietnamese health minister said.

Nguyen Thanh Long said scientists examined the genetic makeup of the coronavirus that had infected some recent patients, and found the new version of the virus. He said lab tests suggested it might spread more easily than other versions of the virus.

Viruses often develop small genetic changes as they reproduce, and new variants of the coronavirus have been seen almost since the time it was first detected in China in late 2019.

The World Health Organization has listed four global “variants of concern” — the two first found in the UK and India, plus ones identified in South Africa and Brazil.

Despite a slow start, the US, UK and other nations have recently made strides in combating the pandemic with the use of vaccinations. But as new variants emerge, health authorities around the world are racing to inoculate people, while facing often disjointed rollouts and limited supplies of shots.

As part of The World's regular series of conversations on the pandemic with Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, reporter Elana Gordon moderated a discussion with a panel of experts on where we are now in the global coronavirus crisis.

Panelists

Barry Bloom
Harvard University distinguished service professor and the Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson research professor of public health and former dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Michael Mina
Assistant professor of Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a core member of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.

Nina Schwalbe
CEO of Spark Street Advisors, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, principal visiting fellow, United Nations University International Institute for Global Health.

Derrick Sim
Director, vaccine supply and demand, Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance.

Presented in partnership with the Forum at Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The AP contributed to this post.

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