WHO: Omicron is more contagious and can infect vaccine recipients

WHO: Omicron is more contagious and can infect vaccine recipients

WHO: Omicron is more contagious and can infect vaccine recipients

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday (20/12) revealed that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is more contagious than the Delta variant and can infect vaccine recipients or COVID-19 recovered patients.

"There is consistent evidence that Omicron spreads significantly more rapidly than the Delta variant," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference in Geneva.

"And it's possible that people who have been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 can be infected or re-infected," he said.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said the Omicron variant managed to escape several immune responses. That means that the booster vaccination programongoing in many countries should target people with weakened immune systems.

Omicron appears to be more agile at avoiding antibodies produced by some COVID-19 vaccines, but there are other forms of immunity that might prevent infection and disease, WHO officials said.

"We don't believe that all vaccines will be completely ineffective," Swaminathan said.

WHO expert Abdi Mahamud added: "Although we saw the neutralizing antibody decrease, almost all the data showed that the T-cells were intact, which is what we really needed."

While antibody defenses are undermined from several quarters, there is hope that T-cells, which are the second pillar of the immune response, can prevent severe disease by attacking infected human cells.

Swaminathan said: "There's definitely a challenge, a lot of monoclonals don't work against Omicron".

However, the WHO team also gave some hope to the world which is facing a new wave that 2022 will be the year in which the pandemic will end through the development of second and third generation vaccines, further development of antimicrobial treatments and other innovations.

The pandemic has claimed more than 5.6 million lives worldwide.

"(We) hope to be able to make this disease, a relatively mild disease that is easy to prevent, that is easy to treat ... and hope to deal with it easily in the future," Mike Ryan, WHO emergencies expert, told a news conference.

"If we can minimize transmission, then the pandemic will be over."

However, Tedros also said that China, the place where SARS-CoV-2 first appeared at the end of 2019, must be willing to submit data and information regarding the origin of COVID-19 to help deal with it in the future.

"We need to keep digging until we know the source, we need to push harder because we have to learn from what has happened now in order to do better in the future," Tedros said.
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