British scientists this Saturday downplayed alarm over the Omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, admitting that, despite many genetic mutations, vaccines are likely to remain effective in preventing serious illness.
Immunologist Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford University Vaccine Research Group that developed the covid-19 vaccine for the AstraZeneca lab, told the BBC that many variant mutations are present in other SARS-CoV-2 strains for which vaccines have proven to be effective. …
“Mutations [da Ómicron] there are other options, and vaccines have been able to prevent serious illness from [variantes] Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta, ”said a researcher from the UK, where the new strain has already been discovered.
According to microbiologist Calum Semple, it is “likely that the immunity” afforded by the Covid-19 vaccines “still protects” against serious illness that the new variant could cause.
Semple considered it advisable that several countries suspended flights to southern Africa in order to “buy time” to intensify vaccinations and assess the true health impact of the new strain.
It is still not known for certain whether micron is more transmissible or dangerous, as it causes more serious illness, death and eludes the protection provided by Covid-19 vaccines.
Microbiologist João Paulo Gomes said Friday in a statement to Lusa that the new SARS-CoV-2 strain, originally discovered in South Africa, is “troubling” given the large number of genetic mutations it presents, in particular in the viral spike protein. which allows it to enter human cells.
However, there is no cause for concern for National Institutes of Health researcher Dr. Ricardo Jorge, as having multiple matching mutations does not mean that the variant is more transmissible or eludes vaccination.
According to a report by the South African Genomic Surveillance Network, the new variant contains more than 30 mutations in the spike protein.
According to João Paulo Gomes, “many of these mutations are in the cell binding zone, while others are mutations known to be associated with an inability to bind antibodies.”
“The problem with this new strain is that it has many more mutations than the other variants that have bothered us so far,” he stressed.
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday classified variant B.1.1.529, first discovered in South Africa’s Gauteng province, as a “dangerous” variant and named it “Omicron,” a letter of the alphabet.
According to the WHO, this variant has “a large number of mutations, some of which are of concern,” with preliminary data suggesting an “increased risk of re-infection” with the new SARS-CoV-2 strain compared to other variants to worry.
As defined by WHO, options of concern are associated with increased transmissibility or virulence or decreased effectiveness of social and public health interventions, diagnoses, vaccines and treatments.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control believes that Omicron raises “serious concerns that it could significantly reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and increase the risk of reinfection.”
After South Africa, the variant has already been found in the UK, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Hong Kong (administrative region of China), Israel and Botswana.
Portugal, which is investigating cases of infection with the new strain, will suspend flights to and from Mozambique from Monday.
Starting this Saturday, all passengers arriving on flights from Mozambique, South Africa, Botswana, Essuatini (formerly Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia and Zimbabwe are required to comply with a 14-day quarantine upon entering mainland Portugal.
On Friday, European Union member states decided to temporarily suspend flights from seven South African countries, including Mozambique, to limit the spread of Omicron.
Covid-19 is a pandemic respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, discovered at the end of 2019 in Wuhan, a city in central China.
In addition to Omicron, there are four other variants of the virus that WHO believes are of concern, including Delta, which is the dominant and most contagious virus in the world today.