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Monday, January 24, 2022

COVID-19 boosters are key to tackling the omicron, there is still a lot to learn

It took the new omicron only a few weeks to justify gloomy predictions about how infectious it is, but scientists still don’t know if it causes more serious illness, even as the world is facing explosive cases just before Christmas.

“It’s more risky now because the omicron is much more contagious,” said Dr. S. Wesley Long, who runs a testing laboratory at Houston Methodist Hospital, “and has canceled numerous plans to prevent contamination in the past week.

It is difficult for public health officials to keep track of how quickly the omicron is spreading in the country and around the world. But after three weeks, omicron accounts for 80% of new symptomatic cases diagnosed at Houston Methodist testing centers. The highly contagious delta variant took three months to reach that level, Long said.

The mutant’s ability to spread faster and evade immunity came at the wrong time – just as the amount of travel increased and many people lost their vigilance. But what the omicron wave will mean for the world is still unclear because many questions remain unanswered. Here’s the latest news on the omicron and what remains to be seen.

HOW MANY PROTECTION DOES VACCINES OFFER?

Vaccines in the US and around the world do not provide the same protection against the omicron as against previous versions of the coronavirus. However, vaccines still help – very much. Laboratory tests show that while two doses may not be enough to prevent infection, boostering a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine produces antiviral antibodies that can fight omicron.

Antibody levels naturally decline over time, and the booster raised them again, 25 times for the extra Pfizer shot and 37 times for Moderna. No one knows for sure which level is high enough or how long it will take before antibody levels begin to fall again.

“After booster vaccination, protection against omicronic infection is still about 20% less than protection against the delta variant,” said Dr. Egon Oser of Northwestern University.

But if the virus overcomes this first line of defense, the vaccinated will receive additional layers of protection.

“Vaccines will protect you from serious illness, hospitalization and death,” said Houston Methodist Long. “And this is really the most important thing.”

These additional defenses include T cells, which are mobilized to resist the virus, and memory cells, which, when reactivated, tend to produce more and stronger antibodies.

What about natural immunity?

Previous infection does not appear to provide sufficient protection against omicronic infection, although, like vaccination, it may reduce the likelihood of serious illness.

In South Africa, where omicron is already widespread, scientists have reported a spike in reinfections that they did not see when two previous mutants, including Delta, moved around the country.

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In the UK, a report from Imperial College London on Friday showed that the risk of re-infection with omicron was five times higher than the earlier delta variant.

Health experts say anyone who has survived a COVID-19 attack should still get vaccinated because the combination tends to provide better protection.

WHY ALSO IS OMICRON DISTRIBUTING SO FAST?

Scientists are trying to decipher dozens of mutations carried by the omicron to figure out what else is going on. Researchers in Hong Kong recently reported that omicron can multiply in the airways faster than delta, although not as efficiently in the lungs.

What scientists cannot measure is human behavior: in many places there have been mitigating restrictions, winter forced gatherings in enclosed spaces, and travel has skyrocketed just after the omicron began to spread.

DOES OMIKRON CAUSE A PERIODIC DISEASE?

It is still too early to know, especially when you consider that if the vaccinated develop a breakthrough infection, it must be milder than if the omicron attacked the unvaccinated.

Early reports from South Africa suggested a milder illness, but doctors were unsure if this was because the population was quite young, or if many retained some protection against recent delta infection.

And this UK study found no evidence that the omicron was milder than the delta in the UK, even in young adults who might have expected milder illness, with higher rates of omicron infection.

World Nation News Deskhttps://www.worldnationnews.com
World Nation News is a digital news portal website. Which provides important and latest breaking news updates to our audience in an effective and efficient ways, like world’s top stories, entertainment, sports, technology and much more news.
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