Severe Concerns Over COVID Omicron Variant
In addition to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also classifies the new Omicron variant as “worrying”. It fears the loss of vaccination protection. BioNTech and Moderna are already assessing whether their vaccines need to be adapted.
The EU health authority ECDC is concerned about the possible impact of the new Corona variant Omicron as far as existent vaccines are concerned. In an assessment of the threat posed by the new virus variant, the Stockholm-based authority announced that B.1.1.529 is the most deviating variant that has so far been discovered in large numbers during the pandemic. This raises serious concerns that it could significantly reduce the effectiveness of corona vaccines and increase the risk of reinfection.
According to the ECDC, Omicron possesses a large number of gene mutations compared to the original virus. There are still more significant uncertainties regarding the transferability, the effectiveness of the vaccines and the risk of reinfection. Nevertheless, the authority considers the likelihood of further introduction and spread of the variant in the European Economic Area high.
Because of these uncertainties, a precautionary approach is essential, wrote the EU authority. Increased implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) is urgently recommended. Such measures include, for example, keeping your distance and wearing mouth and nose protection. Travel to and from affected areas should be avoided. “At this point, we need to be proactive based on our experience with previous variants and take precautionary measures to gain time until we gain more knowledge,” said ECDC director Andrea Ammon.
The vaccine manufacturers BioNTech and Moderna have already announced that they will be testing the new variant in the laboratory. BioNTech announced that findings could be expected in two weeks at the latest. Then it will show whether an adaptation of the vaccine is necessary, should this variant spread internationally.
According to experts, it is still unclear whether the new variant is more dangerous than the currently prevailing delta variant.
The new variant has caused international concern. It was also detected in Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel by Friday. The European Union responded with flight bans and the classification of South Africa as a virus variant area.