‘A Handy Shorthand’: CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Called Out On Air For Calling COVID-19 Variant ‘South African’


Virginia Kruta Associate Editor
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Alisyn Camerota referred to one of the novel coronavirus variants Wednesday as the “South African variant” and was immediately corrected by her guest.

Salim Abdool Karim, South Africa’s co-chair of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19, argued that although the variant was first identified in South Africa, there was no evidence that it had originated there.


“Since you’re coming to us from South Africa, I want to ask you about the South African variant. What do we know about it?” Camerota asked. “Is it more deadly?” (RELATED: Kate Bedingfield Won’t Rule Out Denying Interviews To Networks That ‘Lie’)

Karim said that based on early evidence, the 501Y-V2 variant was dominating the second wave and was spreading up to 50% faster, but did not appear to be causing more severe disease in patients who contracted that particular variant.

“I should just point out that even though the virus and this particular variant was first described in South Africa, it actually might not have even emanated from South Africa,” Karim added. “It’s inappropriate to call it the South African variant. It’s better to just call it by its name, 501Y-V2. And we now know that’s in about 31 countries.”

“No, you’re right. Absolutely, you’re right. I don’t mean to disparage South Africa. It’s just a handy shorthand. I know that doctors don’t like that, when we give a geographic origin because we don’t know that to be true,” Camerota said apologetically before asking her next question. “Because in terms of the 501Y-V2 variant — I hope — is it resistant to the existing vaccines?”

Karim went on to say that initial studies showed that among patients who had been infected with COVID-19 during the first wave, only about half were shown to have antibody protection against the newer variant.

“With regard to vaccines, almost every one of the vaccines that has been studied against this variant in different ways, either in the laboratory or in clinical studies, we have shown that — they have shown that the 501Y-V2 variant is more difficult to neutralize … And the most dramatic of those was a result released on Thursday, where the Novavax vaccine was 89% effective in the U.K., but only 49% effective in South Africa. Deeply concerning,” Karim concluded.