Scholars working to understand how the virus behaves, the measures to avoid contagion
There Omicron variant in the spotlight, among the first indications on the symptoms it causes and waiting for data on the risks of more serious disease and on the efficacy of vaccines. Scholars from all over the world, including Italy, are working to answer the basic questions: what and what can cause the variant B.1.1.529 identified in South Africa and now present in about ten countries. Among the more than 30 mutations, those that can affect the Spike protein are in the sights of the researchers. At each latitude, the position of science at the moment is similar: you have to wait at least a couple of weeks, if not more, to get a first picture outlined.
OMICRON VARIANT IN ITALY
In Italy, the Omicron variant is present in Campania: the wife and children of the 55-year-old Eni executive, the ‘patient zero’, also tested positive. “There is still no evidence that infection with Omicron causes more severe disease than the other variants. Preliminary data suggests that there is a higher rate of hospitalizations in South Africa, but this may be due to the overall increase in infected people rather than the specific infection with Omicron, “says the ISS.” There is currently no information that suggest that the specific symptoms associated with this variant are different from those due to the others “, the Institute continues.
“The initial cases of infection concern university students, young people who tend to have a milder disease – explain the ISS experts on the site – but to understand the level of severity of the infection caused by Omicron it will take longer (from a few days However, it should be remembered that all variants of Covid-19, including the Delta which currently remains the dominant variant globally, can cause serious illness or death, particularly in the most vulnerable people, and prevention remains fundamental. “, it is stressed.
“IT DOES NOT KILL VACCINATES, IT IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD”
Prudence and moderation also in the statements of the experts. “For 3 days we were terrified by the Omicron variant”, says Professor Matteo Bassetti, judging it was too much taken practically everywhere. “For 3 days the world was terrified by some of my colleagues. Today we are witnessing the escape of the catastrophists, but what has happened in the last few days has led several people to say ‘it is useless to get vaccinated’. In a moment like this, with nerves on the skin after 2 years of this kind, you have to communicate carefully. I, who am a doctor, cannot find out about the new variant because the Tokyo Stock Exchange collapses “, he says, to L’aria che tira, the director of the infectious disease clinic of the San Martino polyclinic in Genoa.
Bassetti does not agree with the adoption of measures such as stopping flights from countries deemed at risk. “The Omicron variant appears to have caused no particularly severe symptoms. If the vaccine is an umbrella with a few holes, I use it anyway when it rains“says Professor Massimo Galli.
“We have been told that Omicron has 32 mutations and a dozen are located at the attachment point of our cells, which is why it has automatically become a disturbing variant, but it does not appear to kill vaccinated people. Symptoms seem mild but we need to. time to evaluate more data ”.
VACCINES ON SITE: WHAT MODERN AND PFIZER DO
Moderna and Pfizer are working to possibly modify the vaccine and counteract the variant. Moderna could take months to complete the mission, as the CEO of the pharmaceutical company, Stéphane Bancel, explains to the CNBC broadcaster. 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 shortly: “The higher dose could come quickly. We may decide to provide a higher dose of the current vaccine to possibly protect high-risk individuals, immunosuppressed, and the elderly.“who” may need a fourth dose. “
Biontech, Pfizer’s partner in manufacturing the other mRna vaccine, announces the start of the 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.”
Even against the new Omicron variant “the strategies to reduce the spread of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, in addition to vaccination, remain the same: keep a distance of at least one meter from others, wear a mask with particular attention, especially in closed or crowded environments, coughing or sneezing into the elbow or into a handkerchief, frequent hand hygiene, ensure adequate ventilation of closed environments. If you are eligible to receive a booster dose, the recommendation is to book it, while if you are not yet vaccinated, it is to book the appointment “, highlights the ISS.
“Achieving the highest possible vaccination rates remains the key strategy to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission and significant spikes in cases, as well as to reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging,” the Institute’s experts underline.
THIRD DOSE AT THREE MONTHS IN GB
In the meantime, there are countries that modify their strategy to face the new scenario. In Great Britain, the third dose of Covid vaccine 3 months after the second to combat infections and not be surprised by the Omicron variant. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization believes the booster dose should be offered to all adults within 90 days of completing the primary vaccination course, the Guardian reports. Priority should be set by the UK Health Service. At the top of the list are the elderly and the immunosuppressed. According to the panel, which also recommends the booster dose for the 18-39 age group, adolescents in the 12-15 age group should receive the second dose of the vaccine.
The acceleration, explained Professor Anthony Harnden, president of the JCVI, is linked to a strategy launched while the scientific community is committed to studying the Omicron variant. The new recommendations broaden the number of citizens who can receive the booster: from 40 million to 53 million people. All over 50s, in addition to frail subjects, can receive the booster from September. From 15 November, however, there will also be space for over 40s.
THE ALARM OF THE G7
The threat posed by the new Omicron variant “requires urgent action” and for this reason the ministers of health of the G7 countries met today in an extraordinary way to discuss developments and will continue to keep in close contact in the coming weeks and return to meet in December. In addition to recognizing South Africa’s “exemplary work” in identifying the variant and putting other countries on alert, ministers recognized the “strategic importance of ensuring access to vaccines”, therefore also to implement the commitments made on donations and pursue disinformation on vaccines.
CASES IN EUROPE
“To date, 33 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant have been reported in 8 countries of the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal” write the ECDC experts. “All confirmed cases have a history of travel to African countries, with flights calling at other destinations between Africa and Europe. All cases for which information is available regarding severity were asymptomatic or mild. So far, no serious cases have been reported and there has been no death. ” “Other cases have been reported in seven countries and territories outside the EU: Australia, Botswana, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, South Africa and the United Kingdom.”