Dec 3 (Reuters) – The World Health Organization’s chief scientist told the Reuters Next conference on Friday the Omicron variant could become dominant because it is highly transmissible, but that a different vaccine may not be needed.
Soumya Swaminathan also said it was too early to say whether Omicron is milder than other variants of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and cast doubt over its origin, saying it was far from certain it emerged in southern Africa.
“It is possible that it could become (the) dominant variant,” Swaminathan said, adding that it was however impossible to predict. The Delta variant now accounts for 99% of infections globally, she said.
Scientists in the European Union and Australia are forecasting that Omicron may account for more infections than Delta within a few months. read more
She said Omicron “was highly transmissible” and cited data from South Africa showing the number of cases doubling daily.
“How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago,” Swaminathan said in an interview.
She said the WHO could not at this stage say that Omicron was a mild variant, even if many infections so far have been associated with less severe symptoms or no symptoms at all.
There is not yet conclusive evidence about Omicron’s impact on the effectiveness of antibodies.
“It does seem to be able to overcome some of the natural immunity from previous infection,” the world health body’s top scientist said, but added that vaccines did seem to be having an effect.
“The fact that they’re not getting sick … that means the vaccines are still providing protection and we would hope that they would continue to provide protection,” Swaminathan said.
VACCINE AGAINST ALL CORONAVIRUSES?
Swaminathan was cautious about the need to upgrade existing vaccines … READ MORE.
Omicron Triggers ‘Unprecedented’ COVID Surge Hitting Under Children Under Age 5 in South Africa
Until now, the coronavirus pandemic has largely spared the youngest children. That’s all starting to change in variant-swamped South Africa.
Tom Sykes, Dec. 03, 2021
The “highly transmissible” Omicron variant of coronavirus ripping through South Africa is putting disproportionately large numbers of children under 5 years old in hospitals, a top South African government medical adviser said Friday.
The alarming development raises the prospect of a new global battle cycle against the virus, given that the new variant has already spread to dozens of countries. The South African scientists also said the new variant was spreading much quicker than any previous wave of the coronavirus.
In a worrying virtual press conference, government adviser Waasila Jassat, speaking about the worst-affected area of Gauteng province (which includes the city of Johannesburg), said:
“It’s clear in Gauteng, the week-on-week increase we’re seeing in cases and admissions is higher than we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen quite a sharp increase [in hospital admissions] across all age groups but particularly in the under 5s.”
“The incidence in those under 5 is now second highest, second only to those over 60. The trend that we’re seeing now, that is different to what we’ve seen before, is a particular increase in hospital admissions in children under 5 years.
“We’ve always seen children not being very heavily affected by the COVID epidemic in the past, not having many admissions. In the third wave, we saw more admissions in young children under 5 and in teenagers, 15-19, and now, at the start of this fourth wave, we have seen quite a sharp increase across all age groups, but particularly in the under 5s.”
Jassat produced graphs that clearly showed how children under 5 years old are now being hospitalized at an alarming rate … READ MORE.