‘Highly unlikely’ existing vaccines will fail against Omicron: WHO

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A WHO official mentioned the preliminary information confirmed that the Omicron variant will not be extra harmful than different variants. File photograph
  • A WHO official mentioned the Omicron variant doesn’t appear to be extra harmful than different variants. 
  • The Omicron variant didn’t make folks sicker than Delta and different strains, the information confirmed. 
  • Nonetheless, he mentioned, there may be but loads to be found concerning the pressure.

GENEVA: Omicron doesn’t seem to trigger extra extreme illness than earlier Covid variants, and is “extremely unlikely” to totally dodge vaccine protections, a prime WHO official instructed AFP Tuesday.

Talking to AFP, the World Well being Group’s second-in-command, mentioned that whereas loads remained to be discovered concerning the new, closely mutated variant of Covid-19, preliminary information indicated it didn’t make folks sicker than Delta and different strains.

“The preliminary information does not point out that that is extra extreme. In actual fact, if something, the course is in direction of much less severity,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan mentioned in an interview, insisting although that extra analysis was wanted.

“It’s extremely early days, we’ve got to be very cautious how we interpret that sign.”

On the similar time, he mentioned there was no signal that Omicron might totally sidestep protections offered by current Covid vaccines.

“Now we have extremely efficient vaccines which have proved efficient in opposition to all of the variants to date, by way of extreme illness and hospitalisation,” the 56-year-old epidemiologist and former trauma surgeon mentioned.

“There isn’t any cause to count on that it would not be so” for Omicron, he mentioned, pointing to early information from South Africa the place the variant was first detected that “recommend the vaccine at the least is holding up in safety phrases”.

– ‘Finest weapon’ –

Ryan acknowledged it was doable that the prevailing vaccines would possibly show much less efficient in opposition to Omicron, which counts greater than 30 mutations on the spike protein that dots the floor of the coronavirus and permits it to invade cells.

However he mentioned it was “extremely unlikely” it could have the ability to evade vaccine protections altogether.

“Now we have to substantiate if there’s any lapse in that safety, however I’d count on to see some safety there.

“The preliminary information from South Africa would not point out that we are going to have a catastrophic lack of efficacy. In actual fact, the alternative in the mean time.”

Within the battle in opposition to all Covid variants, he mentioned, “the most effective weapon we’ve got proper now could be to get vaccinated.”

Two weeks after first being recognized, Omicron has been present in dozens of nations world wide.

Early information from South Africa signifies that the brand new variant is probably going extra transmissible than earlier variants, Ryan mentioned, including that this was not a shock.

“When any new variant emerges, it is going to are typically extra transmissible, as a result of it is acquired to compete with earlier variants,” he mentioned.

– Similar guidelines –

The fast-talking Irishman mentioned one might count on Omicron to progressively exchange Delta because the dominant pressure.

However he identified that Omicron had to date been seen spreading particularly rapidly in South Africa, the place Delta had waned, and could be “exploiting a niche within the transmission of Delta”.

There are additionally indications that Omicron is best at infecting individuals who have been vaccinated or already had Covid.

“There may be some proof to recommend that reinfection with Omicron is extra widespread than it was with earlier waves or earlier variants,” Ryan mentioned.

However “we’re notably keen on seeing not whether or not you could be reinfected with Omicron, however whether or not any new an infection is kind of extreme.”

He mentioned that, as the present Covid vaccines goal to stop extreme illness however don’t essentially defend in opposition to merely contracting the virus, reinfections with gentle or no signs had been of lesser concern.

In any case, Ryan mentioned, regardless of its mutations, the brand new variant was nonetheless Covid, and needs to be fought with the identical measures, together with vaccines, masks and bodily distancing.

“The virus hasn’t modified its nature. It could have modified by way of its effectivity, but it surely hasn’t modified the sport completely,” he mentioned.

“The foundations of the sport are nonetheless the identical.”