WHO, American scientists say Omicron variant not much of a threat

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Leshi Adebayo

As confirmed by top World Health Organisation (WHO) and U.S. scientists, the Omicron variant appears to be no worse than other coronavirus strains.

Speaking with AFP on Tuesday, a top WHO official, Michael Ryan disclosed that the Omicron variant is likely more transmissible compared to previous variants as it is also “highly unlikely” to completely evade vaccine protections.

Ryan, Emergencies Director at WHO, also insisted that more research is needed to be done.

He said, “The preliminary data doesn’t indicate that this is more severe. In fact, if anything, the direction is towards less severity.”

The WHO official stated that there was no sign that Omicron could fully avoid protections provided by already existing Covid-19 vaccines.

“We have highly effective vaccines that have proved effective against all the variants so far, in terms of severe disease and hospitalisation… There’s no reason to expect that it wouldn’t be so” for Omicron,” he said.

Ryan also confirmed that the existing vaccines might prove less effective against Omicron, as there have been over 30 mutation counts on the spike protein that dots the surface of the coronavirus, allowing it to invade cells.

Corroborating the WHO’s view regarding Omicron is a top American scientist, Anthony Fauci.

He revealed that Omicron did not appear worse than previous strains based on early indications, and was possibly milder.

Fauci, a long-time director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said that Omicron is “clearly highly transmissible,” very likely more so than Delta, the current dominant global strain.

According to him, “It almost certainly is not more severe than Delta. There is some suggestion that it might even be less severe.”

He, however, stressed that it was important to not over-interpret the data as the populations being followed is tailored among young people and were less likely to become hospitalised.

Fauci said, “Then as we get more infections throughout the rest of the world, it might take longer to see what’s the level of severity.”

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