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April 11, 2022
Q&A About the COVID-19 Variant XE
Question: What is XE and how is it related to the Omicron variant?
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: So as you know, this variant of concern Omicron is circulating around the world, has many sub-lineages, you have heard of BA.1 and BA.2. We now have a recombinant of both BA.1 and BA.2 and this is being called XE. This is how the scientists classify this when they’re doing their molecular epidemiology and actually tracking the changes of these variants. So XE is being classified under Omicron, and it’s a combination of a BA.1 and BA.2.
Question: How transmissible is XE?
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: Here’s what we know about the transmissibility of this recombinant of BA.1 and BA.2. Based on an initial analysis of available sequences, there is a slight growth advantage of this recombinant over BA.2, about a 10% increase in transmissibility, not ten times as has been reported by some. But we are analyzing this with all available information that we have and we will continue to do so. The analysis will be ongoing as we do with all variants. And again, this recombinant is classified under Omicron. So as information becomes available, we will update you as quickly as possible.
Question: How does WHO monitor changes in the virus?
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: There are literally thousands of public health experts and scientists and…and professionals around the world who are looking at this virus, tracking this virus and working with WHO to understand what these changes mean.
Question: How can people protect themselves from COVID-19?
Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove: This virus is still with us. It’s circulating at a really intense level, and we need to use all of the tools that we have at our disposal. These tools are vaccines and, more importantly, vaccination. And we need to make sure that when it’s your turn that you get vaccinated, you receive the full course of the doses that you need. And we need to critically ensure that those around the world, particularly those who are most vulnerable – people who are of older age, people who have underlying conditions, and our frontline workers – get vaccinated in every single country.
And we need to also follow other measures: physical distancing, wearing of a mask, avoiding crowded spaces, opening the windows and doors when you’re indoors…when you’re inside, staying home if you’re unwell.
All of these tools continue to work against reducing the spread as well as preventing severe disease and death. But vaccinations remain critically important and are incredibly effective at preventing severe disease and death. So get vaccinated when it’s your turn.