Scientists and Healthcare Professionals have termed Omicron as the new ‘’variant of concern’’ which has now spread in more than sixty countries. Reports suggest that it poses a high global health risk because some of the evidence indicates that it evades vaccine protection. However, in-depth clinical data to show its severity is still limited; hence it is difficult to get a conclusion on that aspect.
World Health Organisation (WHO) has pointed out that uncertainties regarding Omicron continue to keep the researchers on their toes. The variant which was first detected in Southern Africa and Hong Kong last month is said to have a high transmission rate.
A professor of health and environmental sciences at Kyoto University, Hiroshi Nishiura, specialising in mathematical modelling of infectious diseases, examined the genome data from South Africa. He was able to deduce that the newly discovered variant is capable of escaping immunity built naturally as well as through vaccines. This means that the contagiousness of the disease is higher than that of the delta variant, as suggested by the study of a Japanese Scientist.
The WHO pointed out that as per the ongoing trend, it is clear that people who have received vaccines and were infected before would not be able to build enough antibodies to repel infection from Omicron. Similar findings by the University of Oxford suggest the same; the researchers published a lab report that showed a substantial decline in neutralising antibodies against Omicron in people who had been vaccinated with two doses.
There is an increased concern related to the new variant; most people think that it could serve to cause greater suffering than Delta. WHO has determined that there could be severe consequences if the cases continue to multiply, especially in countries like South Africa, where the percentage of vaccinated people is just 26 per cent.
Early findings suggest that the severity of illness is less than the Delta variant, but additional data is required to conclude if Omicron is comparatively less dangerous. Nevertheless, the hospitalisation of infected patients is likely to increase, which in effect can put stress upon medical facilities. As witnessed by the first and the second wave of Covid-19, the health care systems were inept at giving immediate medical care due to a sudden surge of patients and a lack of oxygen, especially in countries like India.
What do previous instances teach us
In similar cases of a Pandemic, the viruses had become less dangerous but more contagious. For instance, the virus H1N1, commonly known as influenza, which was responsible for the 1918 Spanish flu and 2009 Swine Flu pandemic, still exists, but its severity has reduced considerably. This suggests that although the new variant could lead to a gradual increase in transmission of the disease, it will however not be as deadly as the earlier ones.
Further information based on in-depth investigation and analysis will determine its fatality.