WASHINGTON, DC, Nov 30 – Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, they find yet another coronavirus variant. This one, which has been given the moniker, Omicron, gets mixed reviews from scientists.
There are those that it is “highly transmissible” and others that point out its symptoms are mild, it’s early days, and there’s no need to panic, at least for the time being.
The Omicron variation of COVID-19 made its debut recently in South Africa, and it sent chills around the world. New York Governor Gov. Kathy Hochul declared a state of emergency when she got the news.
The World Health Organization labeled it “a variant of concern.” It has triggered a media frenzy of dire warnings.
But Dr. Angelique Coetzee in Pretoria, South Africa, chair of the South African Medical Association and the first physician to identify this new version of COVID, was less scary in the way she described it. “So far the cases we are seeing are extremely mild. Maybe two weeks from now, I will have a different opinion, but this is what we are seeing. So, are we seriously worried? No. We are concerned, and we watch what’s happening. But for now, we’re saying, ‘OK: there’s a whole hype out there. [We’re] not sure why’… [The] symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” she told the British newspaper, the Telegraph.
On Sunday, Dr. Coetzee took to YouTube with this message: “the hype that’s being created currently out there in the media and worldwide doesn’t correlate with the clinical picture and it doesn’t warrant to just cut us off from any traveling.”
The Omicron version of the coronavirus was first reported on November 11 in the nation of Botswana, which borders South Africa to the north. Thus far, in addition to South Africa, the disease has managed to make its way to Israel, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, Belgium, and North America.
Fox News contributor Dr. Marc Siegel at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York that Omicron is the newest of “about 30 plus mutations and that’s a fear word … people hear that and they get scared … but 95% of the spike protein is not mutated so the chances are very high that the vaccine will offer at least some level of protection which is a very, very good point now to tell people to get boosted if it’s over six months since you had the vaccine get boosted if you haven’t had the vaccine get the vaccine.”
Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical companies are wasting no time investigating the variant in order to produce new versions of their vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech say they can have a variant vaccine in the distribution in 100 days, according to Newsweek.
Paul Burton, Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer, said in an interview with the BBC in England, that “We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks, but the remarkable thing about the mRNA vaccines, Moderna platform, is that we can move very fast. If we have to make a brand new vaccine, I think that’s going to be early 2022 before that’s really going to be available in large quantities.”
The Telegraph reports that “The most common symptoms from earlier variants include fever, dry cough, and loss of taste or smell, though some patients are known to have suffered from fatigue. A small subset of the infected require hospital care for their symptoms, and deaths are mostly among the elderly and people with serious underlying health conditions like obesity and kidney disease.”
The New York Times interviewed Theodora Hatziioannou, a virologist at Rockefeller University in New York, and she said that current vaccines provide “some protection against Omicron because they stimulate not only antibodies but immune cells that can attack infected cells.
And booster shots could potentially broaden the range of antibodies people make, enabling them to fight against new variants like Omicron.”
There was a bit of confusion and amusing speculation when the World Health Organization [WHO] decided to give the new variant the name Omicron, the fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet. The Greek letters Nu and Xi were supposed to be the next two names for new variants, but WHO says that “Nu is too easily confounded with ‘new’ and Xi was not used because it is a common surname and best practices for naming new diseases suggest avoiding ‘causing offence to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups,” according to The Epoch Times.
But the paper noted that George Washington University’s Professor Jonathan Turley said that WHO may have been trying to avoid “any discomfort” with its decision to skip calling the new variant Xi lest it upset Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, China being where the coronavirus-COVID pandemic got its start.
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