The Omicron variant is spreading rapidly but right now it looks like vaccines still work

Pandemic

(Inter)national

I guess the new variant will be “Omicron” rather than “Nu.” I liked the latter name better.

WHO [World Health Organization] said there was also preliminary evidence that the variant, which it named Omicron after the Greek letter, was more transmissible than the Delta variant that is currently dominant world-wide, and other virus strains. Health authorities in Belgium, Israel, Hong Kong and Botswana said they had detected first cases of the variant.[1]

The variant seems to be spreading rapidly around the world, with a few folks pointing to a failure to distribute vaccines internationally, and seemingly rendering attempts to control it by limiting travel laughable. The hope, I suspect in vain, is that travel restrictions will buy a little time. Finally, while it’s early, perhaps too early, it looks like the vaccines still work.[2]

Dr. [William] Hanage and other researchers said that vaccines will most likely protect against Omicron, but further studies are needed to determine how much of the shots’ effectiveness may be reduced.[3]

Virologist Barry Schoub, the head of South Africa’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on COVID-19 vaccines, told Israel’s Channel 12 news that based on initial data from cases in South Africa, it seemed the vaccine would still protect most people from severe COVID-19. . . .

Schoub’s position was far more mellow than that of some other health experts around the world, who have reacted with alarm to Omicron, which has more mutations to its spike proteins than any previous strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.[4]

“I am worried that as the numbers go up, public healthcare institutions are going to be overwhelmed,” said Rudo Mathivha, the director of critical-care medicine at Johannesburg’s Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital.

The WHO made no mention of the variant’s potential impact on the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines. Omicron has more than 50 mutations compared with the coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan, China, in 2019. More than 30 of those mutations are in the spike protein, through which the virus attaches to human cells and which is the main target of the current crop of Covid-19 shots. . . .

If needed, a BioNTech spokeswoman said, the companies could produce a new vaccine adjusted to any variant within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days.[5]

The difficulty with new vaccines will be that, while they wouldn’t require all the testing needed for the initial vaccines, it will take some time to determine if they are even needed.[6]

Annie Linskey and Tyler Pager, “U.S. to restrict travel from South Africa and other countries as it assesses risks of new omicron variant,” Washington Post, November 26, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/26/biden-south-africa-variant/

Gabriele Steinhauser, “Omicron Identified as Covid-19 ‘Variant of Concern,’ Triggering Global Fears,” Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/southern-africas-new-covid-19-variant-prompts-wave-of-travel-restrictions-11637920491

Peta Thornycroft and Will Brown, “Will the omicron variant bypass vaccines? South African experts say it will take ‘weeks’ to find out,” Telegraph, November 26, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/will-nu-variant-bypass-vaccines-south-african-experts-say-will/

Times of Israel, “S. African expert downplays threat from Omicron: ‘We won’t have a severe epidemic,’” November 26, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/s-african-expert-downplays-threat-from-omicron-we-wont-have-a-severe-epidemic/

Chico Harlan and Lesley Wroughton, “Omicron variant detected from Britain to Hong Kong as countries race to impose controls,” Washington Post, November 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/covid-variant-fallout-omnicron/2021/11/27/8c6e0548-4f02-11ec-a7b8-9ed28bf23929_story.html

Carl Zimmer, “New Virus Variant Stokes Concern but Vaccines Still Likely to Work,” New York Times, November 27, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/26/health/omicron-variant-vaccines.html


Clairton

There is a new blog post entitled, “Clairton as strength? Or of survival?

Quinn Glabicki, “The City of Prayer: Clairton’s residents persevere amid persistent pollution and violence,” Public Source, November 19, 2021, https://www.publicsource.org/clairton-city-of-prayer-portraits-illness-trauma-advocacy-resilience/

  1. [1]Gabriele Steinhauser, “Omicron Identified as Covid-19 ‘Variant of Concern,’ Triggering Global Fears,” Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2021, Omicron Identified as Covid-19 ‘Variant of Concern,’ Triggering Global Fears
  2. [2]Chico Harlan and Lesley Wroughton, “Omicron variant detected from Britain to Hong Kong as countries race to impose controls,” Washington Post, November 27, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/covid-variant-fallout-omnicron/2021/11/27/8c6e0548-4f02-11ec-a7b8-9ed28bf23929_story.html; Annie Linskey and Tyler Pager, “U.S. to restrict travel from South Africa and other countries as it assesses risks of new omicron variant,” Washington Post, November 26, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/11/26/biden-south-africa-variant/; Times of Israel, “S. African expert downplays threat from Omicron: ‘We won’t have a severe epidemic,’” November 26, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/s-african-expert-downplays-threat-from-omicron-we-wont-have-a-severe-epidemic/; Carl Zimmer, “New Virus Variant Stokes Concern but Vaccines Still Likely to Work,” New York Times, November 27, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/26/health/omicron-variant-vaccines.html
  3. [3]Carl Zimmer, “New Virus Variant Stokes Concern but Vaccines Still Likely to Work,” New York Times, November 27, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/26/health/omicron-variant-vaccines.html
  4. [4]Times of Israel, “S. African expert downplays threat from Omicron: ‘We won’t have a severe epidemic,’” November 26, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/s-african-expert-downplays-threat-from-omicron-we-wont-have-a-severe-epidemic/
  5. [5]Gabriele Steinhauser, “Omicron Identified as Covid-19 ‘Variant of Concern,’ Triggering Global Fears,” Wall Street Journal, November 26, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/southern-africas-new-covid-19-variant-prompts-wave-of-travel-restrictions-11637920491
  6. [6]Peta Thornycroft and Will Brown, “Will the omicron variant bypass vaccines? South African experts say it will take ‘weeks’ to find out,” Telegraph, November 26, 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-disease/will-nu-variant-bypass-vaccines-south-african-experts-say-will/; Times of Israel, “S. African expert downplays threat from Omicron: ‘We won’t have a severe epidemic,’” November 26, 2021, https://www.timesofisrael.com/s-african-expert-downplays-threat-from-omicron-we-wont-have-a-severe-epidemic/

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