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WHO Says the Omicron Variant Remains a Variant of Concern

The World Health Organization today repeated its call today that the newest strain of COVID-19 remains a variant of concern. Right now, the good news is that is has not been detected in Belize and health officials are hoping that it remains that way. The WHO said it is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible or causes more severe disease compared with other variants. It added that “vaccines remain critical to reducing severe disease and death”. Preliminary evidence suggests there may be an “increased risk of reinfection with Omicron as compared with other variants of concern, but information is limited”. As such, the organization’s Chief Doctor Tedros (teh-dros) Adhanom (ah-dah-num) Ghebreysus (ge-bree-ye-sos) insisted that there be greater international cooperation remains key in preserving what he described as hard-won gains against the virus. That was the sentiment echoed by Doctor Anthony Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the U.S., when he was speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday.

Dr.Anthony Fauci, NIAID Director, Chief Medical Advisor to the President of United States: “What you’re seeing is just the manifestation of what we’ve been talking about why it is so important for people to get vaccinated and for those who are fully vaccinated to get boostered. Because even when you have variants like this, and there’s a lot of unknowns about this variant we know from experience that when you get a level of protection with vaccine and particularly now with the extraordinary increase in protection you get with the booster even when you have variants of concern you do well against them. It may not be as good in protecting against initial infection but it has a very important impact on diminishing the likelihood that you’re gonna get a severe outcome from it. So this is a clarion call as far as I’m concerned of saying let’s put aside all of these differences that we have and say if you’re not vaccinated get vaccinated, if you’re fully vaccinated get boosted and get the children vaccinated also. We now have time.”

In a press conference late last week, PAHO’s Director Doctor Carissa Etienne explained that vaccine inequity and vaccine hesitancy continue to be leading causes of new infections across the Americas. She urged everyone to get the vaccine when it is their turn, especially as the world gets ready for the holidays.

Dr.Carissa Etienne, Director of Paho: “PAHO is working to expand vaccine access in the region especially in places that are falling behind. But as we have said time and time again vaccines are not the only tool to protect us against COVID and that’s why the last point I want to stress is that public health measures are key to reducing the spread of this virus. Mask wearing, social distancing, and avoiding large gatherings especially indoors will remain important even as more of us get vaccinated. There is no room for complacency because we’ve already faced the consequences of an uncontrolled pandemic and we don’t want to be in that position again. As we enter the time of year for reflection and celebration give a gift to your friends and family by getting vaccinated when it’s your turn. The smartest thing you can do now is to get your covid-19 vaccine as soon as you are eligible and when it is available in your country. Please don’t hesitate because of something you heard or read on the internet. We want to assure you that the vaccines are safe and will substantially reduce your chance of getting sick or even dying from this disease. If you have not been vaccinated yet take the holidays as a good opportunity to book a vaccine appointment and if needed or go to a pharmacy or clinic where vaccines are available because with the vaccine you are much more likely to spend the holidays and the coming months in better health without severe covid-19. You will avoid be a cause of worry and grief for your family and friends and you will help your community by staying out of the hospital.”

Tonight, there are still many unknown variables as it pertains this new variant, since not enough data has been collected to determine the clinical implications of Omicron compared with previous variants. However, one expert noted that that reinfections were likely but that vaccinated people had less probability of developing serious symptoms.