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Dr. Guleria, director of AIIMS explains:
1. Important things to know about Omicron – new covid-19 variant
Since the beginning of the covid pandemic, new virus mutations appeared. Delta proved to be the most serious one.
The new variant is known as “Omicron”, it is also known as B.1.1.529. It was first revealed in South Africa, and it is believed to be very dangerous. According to professionals, this new covid variant is highly transmissible. In South Africa, the number of patients had suddenly increased.
Dr. Randeep Guleria expressed his opinion about the “Omicron” variant in many interviews. He discussed how the variant would affect the vaccination process.
2. Omicron is a troublesome concern according to WHO
WHO believes that the “Omicron” variant should concern us. There is a fast transition from VOL (Variant of Interest) and VoC (Variant of Concern), and the difference between the two is huge.
The CDC explained that a VoC in comparison to VoI is connected to the higher transmission, more serious disease outcome (more people may end up in hospitals or die). Moreover, the vaccination and treatment effects are significantly decreased. Also, misdiagnose may happen as well.
Even though the SAMA or South African Medical Association claimed that “Omicron” is not serious, and is only causing mild symptoms, the transmission is extremely high, and that causes great distress in people.
3. Spike protein with multiple mutations
Dr. Guleria reported that “Omicron’s” mutations in spike protein are high. It has more than thirty mutations in the spike protein. This is serious because it may increase the chances of people developing an “immune-escape mechanism”.
What is spike protein? It is the compound that lets viruses enter the cell of the host. In this way, the virus becomes more infectious and transmissible. Anyhow, it is not easy to find and remove it due to mutations in the spike protein.
Most of the COVID vaccines are created to produce antibodies against the spike protein. So, if the spike protein has lots of mutations, then, the vaccines will lose their effect.
4. Transmission’s rate
Because of the huge increase of covid positive patients in South Africa, professionals believe that the “Omicron” variant is highly transmissible and that it is even more transmissible than the previous variants.
5. Is “Omicron” more severe than the “Delta” variant?
For now, the “Delta” variant is still the most dangerous of all. In an interview, Dr. Guleria says that there is no big difference between these two covid variants. In fact, both variants cause almost the same symptoms like sore throat, headache, fever, fatigue. In more serious cases, the symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, etc.
Anyway, WHO reported that there are higher chances of reinfection with the “Omicron” variant. What does this mean? Those who have been covid positive in the past can now get the virus again.
6. Will the “Omicron” variant reduce vaccine efficacy?
COVID vaccines are made to prevent the spread of the virus. However, new virus variants complicate the vaccines’ efficacy.
Because of its more than thirty mutations, the “Omicron” variant is now a worry for health experts. Vaccines are made to find and neutralize the spike proteins of the virus. But, if the spike protein has numerous mutations, then, the vaccines lose their efficiency.
7. What is the future of vaccines?
According to Dr. Guleria, in the future, we may need to develop new vaccines for new covid variants.
It is well known that viruses tend to mutate. In the world, there are several COVID variants. Because of this, professionals say that just like vaccines for influenza, covid vaccines may also need upgrades.
Moderna reported that soon we may expect a new vaccine suitable for the “Omicron” variant.
8. We need to be cautious
Health experts say that besides the vaccines, we need to be extra careful.
Although countries and health officials may apply strict restrictions such as surveillance, opening Covid testing centers, people also need to protect themselves by maintaining social distance, wearing masks as well as washing hands.
It is just a question of time when “Omicron” will cause chaos.
Source: Times of India