OMICRON: The outbreak of the epidemic is increasing. The highly contagious Omicron variant is estimated to cause 3 billion new infections globally over the next three months. Large-scale outbreaks continue to spread across Europe and North America, and cases are rising in many other countries. Omicron has now reached most corners of the world - even where COVID vaccine coverage is low. For example, the African continent has recently recorded a significant increase in new daily reported cases.

Globally, vaccination is also going on at a rapid pace, with millions of doses being made every month. The World Health Organization aims to vaccinate 70% of the population in every country by the middle of 2022. However, with Omicron spreading so quickly and widely, there is a real possibility that the virus will reach many people before a vaccine. Across Africa, 85% of people have not yet received a single dose of the vaccine.

Given this, and some research showing that Omicron causes less severe disease than prior versions, is there less need for people to get vaccinated now? Some may see it that way. But the answer is: no. Even though Omicron means that many people will now be vulnerable to the virus before being vaccinated, there is a need to advance the work of vaccinating around the world. Why tell here?

The first is because Omicron is still dangerous — especially to people who haven't been vaccinated. Studies suggesting Omicron is less severe are based on data collected from countries with relatively high levels of immunity, such as the UK and South Africa.

Indeed, British data collected since the emergence of Omicron shows that people without a vaccine are eight times as likely to be hospitalized. As of 12 January 2022, around 20,000 people in UK hospitals are diagnosed with COVID, indicating that it is certainly not a mild illness for everyone.

Many of the billions of new infections that are expected to occur in the coming days will not be avoided. But it is still important to try to save as many people as possible from its outbreak.

All of these new infections will generate some immunity in people, and this infection-acquired immunity will give them some protection from COVID in the future, at least for the short term. However, given the recently emerged Omicron, little is known about the strength or durability of the immune response to it. But we do know that double immunization in the previous variant provides greater protection against infection later than a prior infection – and that being infected and vaccinated provides particularly high protection. . Even if many non-vaccinated people do have COVID, past experience shows that it is still a very good idea for them to get a vaccine as well.

help stop the spread
Along with lockdown, masks, and social distancing, vaccines are also an important measure to reduce the number of new COVID cases. Although vaccines primarily protect against severe covid disease, they also reduce the chances of someone becoming infected and transmitting the virus.

Keeping cases to a minimum makes it easier to manage disease when an outbreak occurs. The pitfalls of allowing cases to spike can be seen in the UK, where the lack of staff and beds in many hospitals has made it difficult to provide patients with the usual standard of care.

We must do everything possible to avoid similar things happening in other countries – especially those that may not have the same medical resources as a Western nation. Uncontrolled outbreaks also pose a high risk of a new type of anxiety emerging. There is no reason to believe that the coronavirus has finished mutating.