Saturday, January 8, 2022

Zambo mayor fears Omicron

CHIEF COVID frontliner Mayor Beng Climaco warned residents not to be complacent and to strictly follow public health protocols due to threats posed by the new coronavirus variant called Omicron.

“We need to follow the strict public health protocols and always wear face masks and even face shields in crowded areas to protect us from the virus, and to frequently wash hands with soap and water or sanitize them with alcohol or disinfectant,” she told the Zamboanga Post by phone when asked for comment on possible spread of the Omicron variant here due to the rising Covid-19 infections in the National Capital Region which is now under Alert Level 3.

Climaco said although the number of Covid-19 cases in Zamboanga City is declining, residents must take extreme precautions because of the Omicron variant which is more transmissible than the Delta variant.

“At present, there is no report that Omicron variant has reached Zamboanga, but we continue to strictly enforce health and quarantine protocols in the border and we are asking the public to cooperate with us because this is all for the welfare and safety of everybody,” the mayor said.

Zamboanga City’s active Covid-19 is now under 100 from nearly 2,000 the past two months. The strict health protocols imposed by Climaco largely helped in preventing the spread of the deadly respiratory virus in the community and allowed businesses to reopen during the Yuletide holidays.

The World Health Organization designated the Omicron (variant B.1.1.529), a variant of concern, following advice from the WHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Virus Evolution.

Omicron is a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations, including 26-32 mutations in the spike protein, some of which may be associated with humoral immune escape potential and higher transmissibility.

As of December 2021, the Omicron variant had been identified in 110 countries across all six WHO Regions. Current understanding of the Omicron variant continues to evolve as more data become available.

WHO said there is consistent evidence that Omicron has a substantial growth advantage over Delta variant. It is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant in countries with documented community transmission, with a doubling time of 2-3 days.

Omicron was first detected by scientists in Botswana in South Africa in November last year, but according to WHO the growth rate estimates in South Africa are now decreasing, driven largely by the declining rates in Gauteng province. “It remains uncertain to what extent the observed rapid growth rate since November 2021 can be attributed to immune evasion or intrinsic increased transmissibility, but is likely a combination of both,” WHO said.

It added that data on clinical severity of patients infected with Omicron is growing but is still limited. Early data from South Africa, the United Kingdom and Denmark suggest a reduced risk of hospitalization for Omicron compared to Delta. However, the risk of hospitalization is only one aspect of severity, which may be altered by admission practices.

“More data across different countries are needed to understand how clinical markers of severity–such as the use of oxygen, mechanical ventilation and deaths–are associated with Omicron. At the present time, it is still unclear to what extent the observed reduction in risk of hospitalization can be attributed to immunity from previous infections or vaccination and to what extent Omicron may be less virulent,” WHO said.

It said preliminary data from several non-peer reviewed studies suggest that there is a reduction in neutralizing titers against Omicron in individuals who have received a primary vaccination series or in those who have had prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, the increased risk of reinfection reported in England, UK, as well as a growing trend of reinfection cases in Denmark and Israel, can be potentially attributed to immune evasion against Omicron.

To date, there is still limited available data, and no peer-reviewed evidence, on vaccine efficacy or effectiveness for Omicron. WHO said preliminary findings of vaccine effectiveness studies (test-negative design) have been released from South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Available preliminary data should be interpreted with caution because the designs may be subject to selection bias and the results are based on relatively small numbers. Results from the UK indicate a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease for Omicron compared to Delta after two vaccine doses of either Pfizer BioNTech-Comirnaty or AstraZeneca-Vaxzevria vaccines.

There was, however, higher effectiveness two weeks after a Pfizer BioNTech-Comirnaty booster, which was slightly lower or comparable to that against Delta. “A non-peer-reviewed study by South African researchers using private health insurance data reported reductions in vaccine effectiveness of the Pfizer BioNTech-Comirnaty vaccine against infection, and to a lesser degree against hospitalization.  Details about the methods or results were not available at the time of writing,” WHO said. (Zamboanga Post)



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