New evidence that the Ômicron variant of the coronavirus affects the upper respiratory tract, causing milder symptoms than previous variants, is emerging., said an authority of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday (4).
“We are seeing more and more studies showing that micron infects the upper body. Unlike the others, which can cause severe pneumonia“WHO incidents manager Abdi Mahamud told reporters in Geneva, saying this could be ‘good news’.
However, he added that Ômicron’s high transmissibility means that the variant will become dominant within a few weeks in many places., representing a threat to countries where a large part of the population remains unvaccinated.
Mahamud’s comments about the reduced risks of developing the severe form of the disease are in line with other data, including a South African study, one of the first countries where Ômicron was detected.
However, Mahamud also warned that caution is needed, pointing out that South Africa is a “point outside the curve” as the country has, among other factors, a young population.
Asked about the need for a specific vaccine for Ômicron, Mahamud said it was too early to say, but he emphasized that the decision requires global coordination and should not be left to the commercial sector to decide alone.
Vaccination is the challenge
While Ômicron appears to be evading antibodies, evidence has emerged that Covid-19 vaccines still provide protection, triggering a second pillar of the T-cell immune response, Mahamud said.
“Our prediction is that protection from severe cases, hospitalizations and deaths (by Ômicron) will be maintained,” he said, stating that this also applies to vaccines developed by Sinopharm and Sinovac, which are used in China, where the cases of Ômicron remain too low.
“The challenge has not been the vaccine, but vaccination and reaching vulnerable populations.”
Asked whether a specific vaccine against Ômicron is needed, Mahamud replied that it was too early to say, but he reported doubts and stressed that the decision requires global coordination and should not be made only by the manufacturers of the immunization agents.
“You can invest in Ômicron and bet all your chips, and a new variant that’s even more transmissible or with a higher avoidance rate comes along,” he said, adding that a WHO technical group has had recent meetings on vaccine composition.
The best way to reduce the variant’s impact would be to meet the WHO goal of vaccinating 70% of the population in each country by July, rather than offering third or fourth doses in some countries, he said.
With case numbers rising due to Ômicron, some countries have reduced isolation or quarantine times in an attempt to allow asymptomatic people to return to work or school.
Mahamud said leaders must make decisions based on the strength of the local epidemic, saying Western countries with very high numbers of cases might consider shortening periods of isolation to keep basic services running.
However, he recommended that countries where the number of cases is at low levels maintain the quarantine period at 14 days.
Reference: CNN Brasil