Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization says preliminary data on Omicron «doesn’t indicate it is more dangerous».

Updated 47 minutes ago

Leading scientists including WHO’s Dr Mike Ryan said the OMICRON COVID-19 variant is no worse than other coronavirus strains based on preliminary data, while cautioning that more research is needed to judge its severity.

The hopeful assessments came as global concern grew about the alternative, which has led to dozens of countries reimposing border restrictions and Covid-19 measures.

WHO Director of Emergencies Dr Mike Ryan told AFP that while it is likely to be more transmissible than previous variants, it is unlikely that Omicron will completely evade vaccine protection.

“The preliminary data does not indicate that this is more serious. In fact, if there is anything, the trend is towards less risky,» Dr. Ryan said in an interview, insisting that more research is needed.

Ryan also said there was no sign that Omicron could completely bypass the protective measures offered by current Covid vaccines.

“We have highly effective vaccines that have been shown to be effective against all variants so far, in terms of severe illness and hospitalization … there is no reason to expect that it won’t,” for Omicron, he added, referring to preliminary data from South Africa, where the strain was first reported. .

However, Ryan acknowledged that it is possible that current vaccines are less effective against Omicron, which counts more than 30 mutations on the spiky protein that spreads on the surface of the coronavirus and allows it to invade cells.

Dr. Fauci

Chief American Scientist Dr Anthony Fauci It echoed the WHO’s view, saying the Omicron looks no worse than previous strains based on early indications – and may be milder.

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Fauci told AFP that the new variant was «obviously highly transmissible,» and most likely than Delta, the currently dominant global strain.

«It’s almost certainly no more dangerous than Delta,» he added. «There are some indications that it may be less serious.»

But he noted that it’s important not to overinterpret these data because the population being followed is skewed younger and less likely to be hospitalized. It can also take weeks for severe illness to appear.

«And then, as we are exposed to more infections around the world, it may take longer to know the level of severity.»

Pfizer Gap

The two companies said in a statement today that the coronavirus vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer is «still effective» against the Omicron type of virus after three doses.

A laboratory study by its makers found that the vaccine «remains effective in preventing Covid-19, as well as against Omicron, if given three times», but cautioned that «the Omicron variant may not be sufficiently neutralized after two doses.»

According to the study, «a third dose provided a similar level of omicron-neutralizing antibody as observed after two doses» for the other variables.

Pfizer and BioNTech also said that a specific version of Omicron’s coronavirus vaccine, which is currently being developed by BioNTech, will be available by March.

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«Although two doses of the vaccine may still provide protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it is clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,» Pfizer CEO Albert Burla said in a statement. .

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global concern

The discovery of the first cases of Omicron last month coincided with rising numbers of infections around the world, and the alternative raised fears about a global resurgence of Covid.

As EU health ministers met yesterday to find ways to coordinate their response, Norway announced that it would tighten restrictions to combat the surge.

It followed a suspected outbreak of Omicron last week among dozens of attendees who had all been vaccinated, leading to new restrictions in and around the capital, Oslo.

Neighboring Sweden also said yesterday that it will launch a series of measures to combat Covid.

Elsewhere in Europe, Poland said it would limit the number of people allowed in churches, restaurants and theaters from December 15, and make vaccination mandatory for health care workers, teachers and the military from March 1.

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