WHO Says Delta-Covid Option Remains Priority Despite Omicron Concerns

The World Health Organization noted on Monday that the world is on high alert due to the new omicron Covid strain, but delta is still responsible for most of the current infections worldwide.

“More than 99% of cases worldwide are associated with the delta variant, and more deaths occur among the unvaccinated,” WHO Chief Scientist Sumya Swaminathan told CNBC on Monday in an interview with Squawk Box Asia. “I think this is our priority while we wait to learn more about [the omicron] option.”

Last week, the global health agency recognized the omicron variant, initially designated line B.1.1.529, as an option of concern. This means that he may be more infectious, more dangerous, or more skilled at bypassing public health measures, vaccines and therapies. The strain was first identified by South African scientists.

Delta was first discovered in India.

What are health experts worried about?

It is very important that everyone who has not yet been vaccinated, or who has received only one dose, has the full course of vaccination.

Sumya Swaminathan

Chief Scientist, World Health Organization

“The mutation profile strongly suggests that it will have an advantage in transmission and that it may elude the immune defenses you would receive from, for example, monoclonal antibodies or serum from a convalescent person after infection, and perhaps even against certain vaccines. -induced antibodies “, – said the American expert on infectious diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci. told NBC “Meet the Press” Sunday

“So it won’t necessarily happen, but it’s a clear sign that we really need to be ready for it,” Fauci added.

WHO’s Swaminathan told CNBC that scientists need time to experiment and collect data to help them answer some of the fundamental questions surrounding the new option.

“We would like to know if this option is more transmission, even more common than delta? We would like to know if there is a different clinical picture, is it less severe, more severe when it causes disease? ” she said, adding: “And third, it is very important whether this option is able to evade immune responses after natural infection or after vaccination.”

She also encouraged countries in which the omicron variant was found to share their clinical and genomic sequencing data through the WHO research platforms.

How quickly does the option spread?

The omicron variant has now been found in many places including Great Britain, Israel, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Denmark and Australia. Many countries have tightened travel restrictions from southern Africa to try to contain the spread of the new strain.

Covid vaccine manufacturers Pfizer, BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca have said they are researching and testing a variant of the omicron.

WHO’s Swaminathan said that for now, it should be assumed that existing vaccines will provide some, if not complete, protection against the new strain.

“It is very important that everyone who has not yet been vaccinated or has received only one dose is fully vaccinated,” she said.

“I think we still have a huge number of people around the world who did not get the first course of vaccination, and we also know that at the moment it is the delta variant that is the main cause of the pandemic around the world,” Swaminathan said. added.

Information collected by our world in data showed that about 43% of the world’s population were fully vaccinated against Covid-19. But only a small percentage of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose.

WHO has repeatedly criticized global vaccine inequities, as most vaccinations were done in wealthy or middle-income countries, including booster doses.

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