Omicron: Will vaccines need to be tweaked to fight new coronavirus strain?
- Scientists from South Africa discovered the new variant Omicron
- Early indications suggest that the variant is highly transmissible
- Vaccines might have to be adjusted to be able to combat Omicron
Scientists from South Africa announced the discovery of a new variant of the coronavirus named omicron. Researchers all over the globe have been trying to understand the new variant and the kind of threat it poses.
Early indications do not offer much hope omicron seems to be highly transmissible. There is not enough data about the mortality rate and the severity of the infection is still being determined by scientists and health officials.
Another issue scientists have been facing is whether vaccines will be able to respond to the new variant. These may need to be adjusted in order to be able to combat omicron.
Joe Phaahla, the South African Health Minister, revealed that while only a small number of vaccinated people had been infected by the omicron variant, it was too early to draw conclusions. Most vaccinated people displayed mild symptoms and the vast majority of people who needed hospitalization were not vaccinated.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said not enough data is available to determine whether vaccines need to be recalibrated or not.
On Friday, WHO Emergencies Director Mike Ryan said, "Right now, we have highly effective vaccines that are working. We need to focus on getting them more equitably distributed. We need to focus on getting people most at risk vaccinated."
WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said it was not yet possible to determine whether the omicron would become the new dominant strain.
"We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we're in a different situation to a year ago," Swaminathan told Reuters.
Ugur Sahin, the CEO of BioNTech, reassured the public vaccine makers should be able to adjust the vaccine relatively quickly.