The Omicron variant appears to be no worse than other coronavirus strains and is highly unlikely to completely circumvent vaccine protections, top scientists from the WHO and the US said Tuesday amid mounting public health concerns.
The hopeful assessments came as global concern grew over the mutated variant of the coronavirus, which has forced dozens of nations to re-impose border restrictions and raised the possibility of economically punishing lockdowns returning.
While it is likely to be more transmissible than previous variants, it is also “highly unlikely” that Omicron completely circumvents the vaccine’s protections, the second-in-command of the World Health Organization told AFP.
“Preliminary data does not indicate that this is more serious. In fact, if anything, the direction is towards less seriousness,” said WHO emergency director Michael Ryan.
While insisting that more research is needed, Ryan said there were no signs that Omicron could completely circumvent the protections provided by existing Covid vaccines.
“We have highly effective vaccines that have been shown to be effective against all variants so far, in terms of severe illness and hospitalization … There is no reason to expect this not to be the case” for Omicron, he added, pointing to the initial data. from South Africa, where the strain was first reported.
However, Ryan acknowledged that it was possible that existing vaccines could be less effective against Omicron, which has more than 30 mutations in the spike protein that dots the surface of the coronavirus and allows it to invade cells.
‘No more severe’ than Delta, says Fauci
Noted American scientist Anthony Fauci echoed the WHO opinion, saying that Omicron seemed no worse than previous strains based on early indications, and was possibly milder.
The new variant is “clearly highly transmissible”, most likely more than Delta, the current dominant global strain, Fauci told AFP.
“It is almost certainly no more severe than Delta,” he added. “There is some suggestion that it could be even less serious.”
But he noted that it was important not to over-interpret these data because the populations being followed were younger and less likely to be hospitalized. Critical illness can also take weeks to develop.
“Then as we get more infections in the rest of the world, it might take longer to see what the severity level is.”
EU agencies support matching and matching
The detection of the first cases of Omicron last month coincided with a sudden increase in the number of infections worldwide, and the variant added fuel to concerns about a global resurgence of Covid-19.
EU health agencies said Tuesday that a mix and match of approved Covid-19 vaccines could be used for both starter courses and booster doses as the region battles the surge in cases ahead of the Christmas season. .
Evidence suggests that the combination of viral vector vaccines and mRNA vaccines produces good levels of antibodies against the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, said the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Center for the Prevention and Control of Diseases (ECDC) in a statement.
Covid-19 has killed more than 5.2 million people worldwide since the coronavirus was first declared in late 2019, and scientists and health experts say vaccines and continued social distancing are key. to defeat the disease.
( Jowhar with AFP)