what do we know, what the WHO says

by time news

Omicron variant of covid, what do we know so far? The WHO spoke on the issue late yesterday afternoon, specifying that the mutation would now be found in “at least 23 countries” and tracing a possible scenario, that of greater transmissibility than the Delta variant. Uncertainty, on the other hand, about the symptoms, “from mild to severe”, explain the experts, while the map of infections in Europe is outlined. Meanwhile, on the vaccine front, the point is being made on the efficacy against the variant and on the need or not to resort to the third dose or to an ad hoc vaccine.

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“MAYBE MORE TRANSMISSIBLE”

“One of the scenarios is that the virus, which continues to evolve, may have gained some advantages. This means it may have become more transmissible. More transmissible than Delta. That’s what we need to see.” “We expect more information on Omicron’s broadcast within days, not weeks.” It is the picture drawn by the epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, an expert from the World Health Organization (WHO), who updated on the information available on the new mutant at the moment, during the periodic press briefing on the Covid situation in the world.

“From the point of view of the severity of the disease – continued the expert who heads the technical group of the World Health Organization for the coronavirus – we have seen reports of Omicron cases ranging from mild to more severe disease, we have indication that some of the patients present with mild disease, but it is still early “to draw conclusions. “There is also an indication of an increase in hospitalizations in South Africa, but it could be related to the fact that we have more cases and if you have more cases you also have more hospitalizations. So, regarding the severity of Omicron disease, studies are in progress. course “to understand more. We still don’t know enough about the severity “of the disease caused by this variant. But, concluded Van Kerkhove, it should be remembered that” the more the virus circulates, the more infectious it will be, and the more this virus infects the more people will die. And this can be prevented. Everything we are doing for the Delta variant can be done for Omicron. We must act now. “

“OMICRON IN AT LEAST 23 COUNTRIES”

“The emergence of the Omicron variant of covid” has understandably captured global attention. At least 23 countries in five of the six regions of the World Health Organization have now reported cases of this variant and we expect the number to grow. ” This was said by the WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The WHO – he assured – takes these developments extremely seriously, and so should every country. But all this should not surprise us. This is what viruses do. And this is what this virus will continue to do, as long as we allow it. to continue to spread “.

The WHO, explains Dg Tedros, “continues to ask for the optimization of social and public health measures and to ensure that high-risk and vulnerable people in all countries are immediately vaccinated. At the same time, we must not forget that we have already dealing with a highly transmissible and dangerous variant: the Delta variant, which currently accounts for nearly all cases globally. We must use the tools we already have to prevent transmission and save lives from Delta. And if we do, we will prevent even transmission and we will save lives from Omicron. ” Whoever does not “will not even stop Omicron”.

“Widespread travel bans will also not prevent Omicron from spreading internationally and represent a heavy burden on lives and livelihoods,” he continues.

The WHO DG again thanked Botswana and South Africa “for detecting, sequencing and reporting this variant so quickly. It is deeply worrying to me – he said – that those countries are now being penalized by others for doing the right thing. all countries to adopt rational and proportionate risk reduction measures, in line with the International Health Regulations. This includes measures to delay or reduce the spread of the new variant, such as screening of passengers before travel and / or upon arrival, or the application of quarantine to international travelers “.

“Globally – continued the dg -, we have a toxic mix of low vaccination coverage and few tests: a recipe for ‘breeding’ variants, and amplifying them. This is why we continue to urge countries to fully finance” the Act Accelerator “platform. , to ensure equal access to vaccines, tests and therapies around the world. “

THE MAP OF OMICRON INFECTIONS IN THE EU

The confirmed cases of Omicron variant of Sars-CoV-2 in the EU / European Economic Area (See) rise to 59. From the last update until last Tuesday, 15 more have been added, explains the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control Ecdc. The cases were reported by 11 EU / See countries, including Italy, a country for which 4 confirmed cases of Omicron are counted. The others are: Austria (3), Belgium (2), Czech Republic (1), Denmark (4), France (1 in Réunion), Germany (9), Netherlands (16), Portugal (14), Spain ( 2) and Sweden (3), according to information from public sources.

Numerous probable cases have also been reported throughout the region, but are still under investigation, the ECDC points out. Most of the confirmed cases have a history of travel to southern African countries, some having taken connecting flights to other destinations between Africa and Europe. All cases for which information on severity is available were asymptomatic or mild. To date, there have been no serious cases and no deaths reported among these cases.

Outside the EU / See cases of Omicron have been reported from 12 countries and territories: Australia, Botswana, Brazil, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

VACCINES AND OMICRON VARIANT, THE POINT

As contagions linked to the variant increase, researchers from numerous countries are working to outline the picture linked to Omicron: symptoms, disease and – of course – vaccine efficacy. The first indications, currently unsupported by figures, come from Israel, a ‘locomotive’ country in the vaccination campaign. Three doses of the covid vaccine appear to protect against Omicron, judging by health minister Nitzan Horowitz. In Israel, four cases of positivity to the variant have so far been confirmed. “In the next few days we will have accurate information on the effectiveness of the Omicron vaccine, but there is already room for optimism, and there are initial indications that those who have been vaccinated with a still valid vaccine or booster will also be protected. from the variant, “he said.

If the need arises to adapt the anti-Covid vaccines approved in the EU to the Omicron variant of Sars-CoV-2, the EMA could authorize them within “three to four months, starting from the beginning of the change process” , specifies for her part the executive director of Ema Emer Cooke, in a hearing at the ENVI commission of the European Parliament, in Brussels.

“We are prepared – says Cooke – we know that viruses change and that at some point there will be a mutation that will mean that we have to change the current approach. For this reason, we approved guidelines for companies in February of the year. last: we haven’t had to use them yet, which is why there are no varied vaccines on the market so far, because in reality the current vaccines have proven to be effective against the variants in circulation in Europe. “

Existing Covid vaccines could be much less effective against the Omicron variant of the virus, the alarm raised by Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel in an interview with the Financial Times, according to which the high number of mutations of the virus new strain of the Spike protein and the rapid spread of the variant suggest that current vaccines will have to be modified next year.

“I think there will be a material decline (in efficacy, ed). I don’t know how much, because we have to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to … they say ‘this is not good,'” Bancel said.

In the meantime, Moderna and Pfizer are working to possibly modify the vaccine and contrast the variant. Moderna could take months to complete the mission, as explained by Bancel. The efficacy of current vaccines against the Omicron variant is unknown. To buffer the eventual emergency, the company could make a booster dose of 100 micrograms available in a short time: “The higher dose could arrive quickly. We could decide to provide a higher dose of the current vaccine to protect perhaps the subjects with high risk, the immunosuppressed, and the elderly “who” may need a fourth dose. “

Biontech, Pfizer’s partner in manufacturing the other mRna vaccine, announces the start of development of an adapted vaccine as a “precautionary measure”. The research that will go on in parallel with the study of the nature of the new Omicron variant. “To avoid wasting time, we are pursuing these two objectives in parallel until data is available and we will have no other information to determine whether the currently available Covid vaccine actually needs to be adapted or not,” explains the spokesperson. of the company in an interview with the Dpa. “The goal of this approach is to move fast in case a new variant-specific vaccine is needed.”

“We have filed a request with the FDA to extend the authorization for the emergency use of a booster dose of our Covid-19 vaccine to children aged 16 and 17. Our hope is to provide strong protection to as many people as possible. , particularly in light of the new variant, “tweeted Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Johnson & Johnson will evaluate its Covid vaccine and to do so is testing the blood serum of participants in the completed and ongoing booster studies to verify neutralizing activity against the new mutant. At the same time, the US company is working on a specific vaccine against the Omicron variant and will carry it out as needed. This is what J&J explained in a note in which he takes stock of the activities related to the new mutant.

Since the emergence of the Covid pandemic, the note reads, “Johnson & Johnson has closely monitored the new emerging variants of Covid-19. In collaboration with academic groups in South Africa and around the world, the company has evaluated the effectiveness of its vaccine for several variants, including the new Omicron variant which is spreading rapidly. Omicron, points out Mathai Mammen, Global Head of Janssen Research & Development, J&J, “highlights the importance of continuous surveillance, testing and vaccinations to prevent hospitalizations. and deaths from Covid. We remain confident in the robust humoral and cell-mediated immune responses generated by Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine, demonstrated by the duration and breadth of protection against variants found in clinical trials so far. “

But, added the expert, “we will not limit ourselves to that. Based on our long-standing collaboration with field scientists in South Africa and ongoing clinical practice efficacy studies with Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine, we will work together to generate new data on Omicron. In parallel, we have begun work to design and develop a new vaccine against Omicron and will rapidly move it forward into clinical trials as needed. “

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