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Vaccines still proven to be effective against Omicron variant: WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan

WHO chief scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan stressed that its "severity has not surged to a new level" even though infections are going up exponentially in many countries and asked people to get vaccinated against the virus.
 

Vaccines still proven to be effective against Omicron variant: WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan
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Geneva, First Published Dec 30, 2021, 12:44 PM IST
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WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan has stated even though the Omicron variant is infecting both vaccinated and unvaccinated people worldwide, vaccines are still proven to be effective against the new variant of coronavirus disease. She stressed its "severity has not surged to a new level" even though infections are going up exponentially in many countries and has asked people to get vaccinated against the virus.  

Swaminathan further added that information on Omicron is still emerging, to conclude definitely would be premature. However, studies are pointing towards a reduction in neutralization capacity. Vaccinated people and those who have prior infections are still getting breakthrough infections with Omicron.

Swaminathan said, "That is why the numbers that we are seeing around the world today are extremely high because these infections are occurring in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people. However, it appears that vaccines are proving to be still protective because even though the numbers are going up exponentially in many countries, severity of the disease has not surged to a new level."

Swaminathan pointed out the hospitalisations and the need for ventilation and critical care as they have not been up proportionately, stating it's a good sign. She added, "And this is what we had expected because immunity, immune responses are much more than just neutralizing antibodies."

While briefing the press, the chief also spoke about the factors
that account for a vaccine's effectiveness against Covid-19. She claims the vaccine's effectiveness varies a little bit between vaccines though the majority of all of the WHO emergency use listing jabs have very high rates of protection against severe disease and death at least till the Delta variant.

Swaminathan also added there are biological factors which decide the vaccine's effectiveness. She said, "It includes age, underlying illnesses and we know and proved it with all the variants that the older you are the more the underlying illnesses and co-morbidities, the more vulnerable you are to get the disease."

Swaminathan said, "It is the time since vaccination and the waning of the immunity, and we know that there is some amount of meaning," while pointing at the third factor that decides the effectiveness of the vaccine. "But again there is more warning for infection against infection and that is why we are seeing a lot of breakthrough infections now especially with Omicron because Omicron does have the capacity to overcome pre-existing immunity, and needs higher levels of antibodies and protection."

On Wednesday, the fresh report released showed the rising cases of Omicron in the US, France, and Denmark. An AFP count revealed 6.55 million infections were reported globally for seven days through Tuesday demonstrating Omicron's unprecedented spread claiming to be the highest since the WHO declared a pandemic in March 2020.

Expressing concern over the rising Omicron cases, the WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "I am highly concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases." "This is and will continue to put immense pressure on exhausted health workers, and health systems on the brink of collapse," he further added.

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