OMICRON – the new COVID 19 variant

Omicron is a variant of SARS-CoV-2 that was first identified in COVID-19 patients in Botswana and South Africa. The WHO Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) feels that this virus had several mutations and may easily spread globally causing a severe rise in COVID cases worldwide. The biggest concern about this variant is whether it’s more infectious than other VoCs and whether it can infiltrate the vaccine protection.

Covid 19 Omicron variant has started spreading in India too. The symptoms of Omicron include weakness, tiredness, headache, low fever and pain in the throat. Scientists are still collecting data on various characteristics of this variant. However, early uncoverings from South Africa hint that Omicron may be more transmissible, while WHO has indicated that there may be increased risk of reinfection as compared to other variants. This might be true even in patients who have been previously infected with COVID 19. Experts have stated that few more weeks will be needed to understand different complicated aspects of the new variant—including the real nature of the variant’s severity, ability to transmit and to elude vaccines.

Though current vaccines may continue to fight against the Omicron variant, experts have suggested that booster doses may also be needed to tackle the new Omicron variant. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson have started gearing up to tweak their vaccines to be able to fight the new variant better. A hard and fast timeline is still uncertain, although vaccines that utilize mRNA technology can be adapted to handle the current situation more rapidly. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines train our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response inside our bodies. This immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if and when real virus enters our bodies. According to both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, a new shot could be developed and approved within a few weeks.

So now you must be wondering as to what is that we individuals can do protect ourselves against Omicron. Current guidance from experts suggests that the most important thing that a person can do to reduce transmission and protect themselves against the virus is to get vaccinated. Even as the entire world waits with a baited breath for more information about how effectively the current vaccines will protect against the variant, all the WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines have proven effective up to a very large extent in preventing severe illness and death due to the virus.

Remember that not only does vaccination protect us from COVID-19 infection, it protects our family, friends, neighbours and communities by putting a halt on the circulation and mutation of the virus. In order to fight Omicron variant, in addition to the vaccine, individuals should continue to follow COVID-19 non-pharmaceutical interventions such as sanitizer (washing hands), social distancing, wearing masks, and staying away from large crowds.

Currently there’s still a lot of disparity between the vaccination rate that exist between wealthy and poorer countries. The older COVI9 19 variants along with Omicron have taught us that nobody is safe until everybody is safe. More the number of people across the world get vaccinated, safer we all will be. The best possible way to win this war against the pandemic is to show solidarity and keep working together.