New Omicron variant not a disaster, says UK scientist

170
4
New Omicron variant not a disaster, says UK scientist

A UK scientist, who advises the government, said that the new potentially highly-transmissible variant of COVID- 19, named Omicron, is not a disaster as vaccines are still likely to protect against the serious disease from it.

Professor Calum Semple, a microbiologist from the UK's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies SAGE, cautioned against the global headlines surrounding the new B. The health authorities said they are investigating the most significant variant that could potentially be more infectious and vaccine-resistant and that the UK imposed travel restrictions on six southern African countries of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

This is not a disaster, and the headlines from some of my colleagues saying 'this is horrendous' I think are hugely overstating the situation, Professor Semple told the BBC.

Immunity from vaccination is likely to protect you from severe disease. He said that you might get a snuffle or a cold but your chance of coming into hospital, or intensive care or sadly dying are greatly diminished by the vaccine and still will be going into the future.

A new Omicron variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation WHO from South Africa on Wednesday, and has been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel.

Countries around the world are trying to contain Omicron spread by banning travel bans and restrictions on southern African countries.

Semple said that it is important to delay its arrival because it may not be possible to stop the variant coming to the UK.

If you can slow the virus, it gives you more time to get ahead of it, as it gives you more time for your booster campaign to get ahead of it. He said that it gives scientists more time to understand the virus, in case there is anything we should be worried about.

A vaccine expert believes that it is extremely unlikely that the new Omicron variant will cause a major new wave of the COVID-19 epidemic in the UK.

The director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Andrew Pollard, said it was too early to know whether the new variant will be able to evade current vaccines, something that is unlikely to be known for up to three weeks.

He said that most of the mutations in Omicron are in the same parts of the spike protein as those in the other variants that have emerged.

At least from a speculative point of view, there is some optimism that the vaccine should still work against a new variant of serious disease, but we need to wait several weeks for that to be confirmed. Professor Pollard said it's extremely unlikely that a resurgence of a pandemic in a population like we saw last year is going to happen.

England's Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, told a local government panel that he remained concerned about the risks posed by existing variants, describing the Delta epidemic as the main thing we don't know and I think it's probably not terribly helpful to speculate.

Sir John Bell, one of the government's most senior advisers on vaccines, said that the new variant could cause runny noses and headaches in those who have been vaccinated.

Sir John, a Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said that while the new variant might evade antibodies, it would be less likely to escape T-cells and other parts of the immune system that provide broader protection.

You could still have a highly infectious virus that scoots around and causes lots of trouble, but it causes lots of runny noses and headaches but doesn't put people into hospital. You could live with that, he said.

The pharmaceutical majors behind some key COVID 19 vaccines expressed confidence that they will be able to adapt quickly to their jabs if the Omicron variant spreads.

Pfizer and BioNTech expect to be able to develop a tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days, subject to regulatory approval. Moderna said it has advanced a comprehensive strategy to anticipate new variants of concern, including three levels of response if the immunity offered by its jabs wanes.

Novavax has already started creating a COVID 19 vaccine based on the known genetic sequence of B. The UK's official figures reveal another day of high daily coronaviruses, with 50,091 COVID infections and 160 deaths recorded on Friday, and will have it ready for testing and manufacturing within the next few weeks.