A couple of days ago, it was announced that a new COVID-19 variant has joined the fold. This particular variant which has been dubbed as quite different from the original strain of COVID-19 has raised several concerns from scientists and world leaders. The variant for which the first case has been identified in South Africa prompted border closures by European countries, in a bid to stop the spread. In this article, we shall be discussing the critical factors that will determine the impact of Omicron.
The variant is still relatively new and the data of cases is still rolling in. In view that it is quite different from other strains, questions have been put forth about vaccine effectiveness and whether boosters need to be developed to cater for this specific variant. Research has proven that vaccines are effective in preventing serious illness and hospitalisations even when it comes to the most worrying variants such as the Delta. Time will tell whether the current immunity provided by the existing vaccines will be sufficient in keeping people away from serious illness and hospital admissions.
As the data rolls in, we will soon better establish how dangerous this particular variant is. The level of danger and concern will undoubtedly be influenced by the mortality rate. During the time of writing, the data collated seems to suggest that those infected with Omicron tend to suffer from mild symptoms such as a runny nose, headaches and fatigue. If this is the case across a larger population, it may be concluded that the Omicron variant is less of a concern when compared to Delta. With that said, the initial data seems to point to the theory that it is more transmissible. It is already found in a number of countries across the world and containing the spread is highly unlikely.
It would be interesting to see how the antiviral drugs currently being developed and awaiting approval for distribution on a global scale would react against this variant. Only time and data will tell whether the antiviral drugs being prepared can be used as formidable weapons against COVID-19 and this particular variant.
Over the course of the pandemic, we have had several variants which brought about fear and concern. Such variants include the Brazilian, the South African, the one from Kent and Delta. So far, vaccines have proven to keep the situation manageable, albeit with rising cases. The coming weeks are critical in establishing whether Omicron is a variant which can be handled with the existing arsenal of medication.