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What’s in a name? Naming B.1.617.2 and other SARS-Cov-2 variants

With variants becoming a daily part of the media and public understanding of the pandemic, and moving into a phase where the potential for vaccine evading variants will increasingly be the focus of COVID-19 news, how can journalists ensure effective and accurate reporting?

This briefing and Q&A with some of the scientists behind the names B.1.1.7, P.1 and B.1.617.2 was designed to help those reporting on COVID-19 and variants understand the naming, why these names work the way they do, and how to use them effectively and accurately in copy, audio, and video. Representatives from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh were able to cover how variants are identified and named, whether all discovered variants get names, and if/when shorthand like the ‘Indian’ and ‘Kent’ variant is appropriate.

This briefing was timed to coincide with the formalisation of the Pango Network, the team behind these widely used virus names, and the publication of the details of their managing committees and the rules that govern the naming of variants on their new website


Speakers included:

Prof Oliver Pybus, Professor of Evolution & Infectious Disease at the University of Oxford and Professor of Infectious Diseases at the Royal Veterinary College London

Áine O’Toole, final year PhD student in the Rambaut Group at the University of Edinburgh

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