Capitol Correspondence - 06.01.21

Update: New Names for COVID-19 Variants

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To assist our members with their efforts to educate staff, individuals they support and broader networks on COVID-19 variants, we share this article by Axios:

“The World Health Organization announced Monday a new naming system for COVID-19 variants that uses letters from the Greek alphabet.

Why it matters: Health officials have been concerned that the strains’ scientific names, comprising numbers and letters, are leading people to refer to them by the place they were detected, such as the ‘U.K. variant’ for B.1.1.7, which the WHO notes in a Twitter post ‘is stigmatizing & discriminatory.’


How it works: Under the new system the WHO is encouraging countries to call variants of concern by the following names during public discussions:

  • B.1.1.7 becomes ‘Alpha;’ B.1.351, first detected in South Africa, is now ‘Beta;’ P.1, first found in Brazil, is ‘Gamma’ and; B.1.617.2, first detected in India, is called ‘Delta.’

“Variants of interest” take the following new public names:

  • B.1.427/B.1.429, first detected in the U.S., takes the name ‘Epsilon;’ P.2, first found in Brazil, becomes ‘Zeta;’ B.1.525, detected in ‘multiple countries,’ is called ‘Eta;’ P.3, which originated in the Philippines, is ‘Theta;’ B.1.526, first identified in the U.S., is now ‘Iota’ and; B.1.617.1, first detected in India, is referred to as ‘Kappa.’”