There’s news about Omicron everywhere, especially in the UK.
The years 2019 – 2021 have been the years of several variants of COVID-19, the latest of all being, Omicron. Even if its start seems to be less severe, there’s a huge stir around the UK that the Omicron variant could shake the NHS.
There seems to be a daily rise in the Omicron cases as per the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) with 12133 cases reported so far. The hospitals are already operating at 94% and 96% capacity ever since COVID-19 and the pressure has hiked up due to the rising numbers of the variant, creating a great demand for nurses and doctors. If you are a registered NHS nurse, then you will have several competitive jobs to apply for from NHS providers. Check this one from one of the leading NHS recruitment agency.
Coming right into the topic, there’s still a lot of research underway to gauge Omicron’s severity, transmissibility, and risk. If you are someone who has lots of questions about this variant , then this blog is for you. We have thrown light into several unanswered questions about this variant. Continue reading
What is the Omicron virus?
Though there is still uncertainty regarding Omicron, it is a variant of COVID-19 with several mutations that may have an impact on how it acts. It emerged in Nov 2021 as a SARS COVID-19 variant and was named Omicron by WHO.
Why is this new variant of COVID-19 called Omicron?
The COVID-19 virus took various forms over time and scientists every time used the Greek alphabet to name each of them. Post the original CoronaVirus mutation, the first variant was named an alpha variant. Since then, scientists have identified an additional six variants, including Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta with omicron being the latest.
Where was Omicron first reported?
It was first analyzed by epidemiologists in Botswana and was reported to the WHO on November 6, 2021. The study submitted a report that this variant had more than 30 mutations in the virus, allowing it to infect cells and penetrate faster than the previous versions.
Is Omicron more contagious?
Robert Bollinger, M.D., M.P.H., an expert at HIV/AIDS, Infectious Disease states that the variant has inadequate evidence to be more infectious than the delta variant. But it is advocated to follow basic prevention strategies like masking, vaccination, social distancing, handwashing, and ventilation to reduce the risk of infection or transmission.
Does omicron cause more illness?
As per the reports, there still has been a lower rate of hospitalization when compared to the Delta variant. A report from the South African private health insurer Johannesburg, Discovery Health has stated that the hospitalization rate has been 29% lower among infected people, which is less than the previous variant. This has led to suggestions that Omicron is milder than the antecedents. But again as per Bollinger, it is too early to be sure of the details as the details of the study are yet to be announced.
Does the omicron variant detect on COVID tests?
Yes, the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and the antigen COVID tests help identify the variant.
Will the existing vaccine protect the Omicron variant?
Similar to the previous questions, scientists are yet to give conclusive evidence on these questions. The research is still on about how well the antibiotics can neutralize the omicron effects.
Certain antiviral drugs limit the virus’ ability to replicate in the body – Remde Sivir is one such drug that is now authorized for an emergency by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to treat COVID-19. Merck and Pfizer are authorized too. But as of now, there is still no evidence to prove that these drugs would perform less in the variant.
But based on the death rate or the optimal protection rate, the vaccines will be modified in order to address this latest COVID-19 variant.
What will be the actual time frame that will take for the vaccine manufacturers to tweak the vaccines to address the Omicron variant and develop a booster?
While the current vaccines may continue to prevent the Omicron variant, scientists have pointed out the need for the booster dose. Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson are working on tweaking the vaccines to meet this new concern.
A precise timeline remains uncertain, in spite of the fact that the vaccines that utilize mRNA technology can be adapted quicker. As per Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, a new shot could be approved within weeks and shipped soon.
What can people do to protect and prevent the new spread of the Omicron variant?
The current evidence proves that the one thing that can alleviate the spread is to get vaccinated. Though the whole world awaits additional information on the current vaccines, the WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines will have more boost preventing people from severe illness and death.
What can countries do to slow the spread?
The best defense the countries could implement is to execute vaccination programs on a large scale. This includes strengthening surveillance systems to track adverse epidemiological events and collate data on variants, readying vaccine service delivery systems with campaigns, and finally developing robust and targeted risk communications to address the vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.
What should the world prioritize to beat the fear of the new variant spreading?
Health equity should remain the major priority. The Covid doses should be delivered even to those countries with unstable health care systems, limited human resource capacity, and logistical infrastructure to carry out mass vaccination campaigns.
When talking about health equity it means not castigating transparency. The rapid and transparent data reports from countries like the UK, South Africa, and Botswana have prompted global reactions to restrict the variant.
With disparities that appear between the vaccination rates between the well-to-do and the poorer countries, the Omicron variant has prompted to scale-up vaccination across the globe. Right now we don’t need yet another variant to show how interconnected we are. The variants of COVID-19 have only re-emphasized the fact that nobody in the world is safe and that the COVID-19 will continue to mutate in countries where most people are unvaccinated. The only solution to fight against COVID-19 and its several mutations is to keep working together.