Does It Cause More Severe Illness
Deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said there are still uncertainties about Omicron’s impact on severity of disease.
While there is some speculation that symptoms are more mild, hospitalisations are still increasing in South Africa.
Englands chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said there was some data suggesting around about a 300 per cent increase in hospitalisations” in one week.
Migrants Trapped In War
Thousands of migrants stranded in war-torn Yemen, the Middle Easts poorest country, will receive Covid-19 vaccines under a new campaign announced Wednesday by the International Organization for Migration.
The Geneva-based organization, a 174-member intergovernmental group that works with the United Nations to protect vulnerable migrant populations around the world, said it aimed to inoculate around 7,500 people trapped in two Yemen cities, Aden and Marib.
Still, that is only a fraction of the estimated 36,000 migrants who are stuck in the country because of Covid-19 mobility restrictions. Despite the conflict, many migrants from Africa have made the perilous trip from Djibouti across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, a transit point for them as they seek to reach neighboring Saudi Arabia for work as laborers and housekeepers.
The seven-year-old war in Yemen has created what aid groups have described as one of the worlds worst man-made humanitarian crises. Even before the onset of the pandemic, Yemens health system had basically collapsed, the country edged toward famine and once-eradicated diseases like cholera returned.
The United Nations has said that 20.7 million of the countrys roughly 31 million people are in need of assistance, and that more than 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished.
Fauci Says Covid Boosters Work Against Omicron No Need For Variant
- White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said the primary two-dose vaccination series from Pfizer and BioNTech is significantly compromised by omicron.
- However, two shots still offer considerable protection against severe disease, he said.
- A booster dose increases protection against symptomatic disease to 75%, Fauci said.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that currently available booster shots work against the omicron variant of Covid-19 and do not need to be adjusted to fight the new, highly contagious strain of the virus at this time.
“Our booster vaccine regimens work against omicron,” Fauci told the public during a White House Covid update on Wednesday. “At this point, there is no need for a variant-specific booster.”
Fauci said the primary two-dose vaccination series from Pfizer and BioNTech is significantly compromised by omicron, but still offers considerable protection against severe disease. Protection from the two-dose vaccine against infection dropped to 33% compared with 80% before the emergence of omicron. However, two doses are still 70% effective at preventing hospitalization in omicron patients in South Africa, Fauci said.
“Obviously, this is significantly down but there is the maintaining of a degree of protection against hospitalization,” Fauci said.
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Will Vaccines Work Against It
Top scientists from the WHO said it was highly unlikely super-strain Omicron could completely evade protection offered by jabs.
Studies in laboratories have suggested that antibodies in the blood do not fend Omicron off as well.
Our scientists are deeply concerned about this variant
Sajid Javid The Health Secretary
However, experts are confident as new data from Pfizer reveals two jabs do work to prevent serious illness from the mutant strain.
Getting a booster shot, or a third dose, “turbocharges immunity” and is what is needed to successfully beat the variant, the study found.
Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, its clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine, said Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer.
If the variant is vaccine resistant, it would not render them completely useless.
Sir Patrick Vallance said vaccine makers are already looking at how they can make them more effective against emerging variants, and that a jab designed to specifically target the Omicron variant could be created in about 100 days.
Will A New Omicron Vaccine Be Released
Vaccine makers have said that they will continue at full speed with plans to develop an updated omicron-based vaccine, which should be available by March 2022 if needed.
Pfizer has said that if needed it could produce an omicron-tailored vaccine in approximately 100 days.
On the same subject, Professor Sahin said: We continue to work on an adapted vaccine which, we believe, will help to induce a high level of protection against omicron-induced Covid-19 disease as well as a prolonged protection compared to the current vaccine.
Meanwhile, Modernas chief medical officer, Dr Paul Burton, said last week that it would take three months for his company to produce a vaccine specifically targeting omicron.
Johnson & Johnson is currently testing its vaccine against omicron with Dr Mathai Mammen, the global head of research and development for the company, saying in a statement: We have begun work to design and develop a new vaccine against omicron and will rapidly progress it into clinical studies if needed.
The company is, however, yet to give a timeline for vaccine development.
AstraZeneca has not revealed whether or not it will need to develop a new vaccine against omicron.
However, Professor Sarah Gilbert of Oxford University, who helped create AstraZenecas current jab, has said that existing coronavirus vaccinations, no matter who produced them, are not likely to perform well against omicron.
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How Well Does A Covid Vaccine Hold Up Against The Omicron Variant
Scientists in South Africa have found that the effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections has dropped to about 30% for the omicron variant.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We are learning more this morning about the new coronavirus variant, omicron, which is spreading quickly in Europe and North America. It has an exceptionally high number of mutations in it, and it appears to be more transmissible than the delta variant. Scientists in South Africa are now releasing the first data looking at how well the vaccines will work against this variant. Here to tell us what they found, NPR’s global health correspondent Michaeleen Doucleff. Hey, Michaeleen.
MICHAELEEN DOUCLEFF, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.
DOUCLEFF: So the findings come from South Africa’s largest private health insurer, called Discovery Health, and the South African Medical Research Council. And in the study, scientists analyzed data from about 78,000 people likely infected with omicron. Nearly half of those people had received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. In this population, the vaccine’s effectiveness against infection dropped to about 30% for omicron compared to about 80% against the previous variant.
DOUCLEFF: It is quite low. So by comparison, here in the U.S. during the delta surge, the mRNA vaccines had an effectiveness of about 60 to 70%. So at 30%, they’re going to be many, many breakthrough infections. And just to emphasize here, this is for protection against infection.
Are Some Types Of Vaccine More Effective Than Others
A small study has suggested that the omicron coronavirus variant may be able to better evade the protection offered by the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine than the initial Covid virus type.
There seems to be a very large drop in immunity against the new variant among those given Pfizers vaccine, said Professor Sigal after his laboratory studied the blood samples of 12 people who had been vaccinated with the jab.
Moderna is yet to publish any official results on the efficacy of its jab against omicron but president of the company, Dr Stephen Hoge, said there is a good chance current vaccines will not hold up as well against the variant.
Speaking to ABC News on 5 December, Dr Hoge said: “I think that theres a real risk that were going to see a decrease in the effectiveness of the vaccines. What I dont know is how substantial that is.”
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The Effects Of Virus Variants On Covid
This article is part of a series of explainers on vaccine development and distribution. Learn more about vaccines from how they work and how theyre made to ensuring safety and equitable access in WHOs Vaccines Explained series.
All viruses including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 evolve over time. When a virus replicates or makes copies of itself, it sometimes changes a little bit, which is normal for a virus. These changes are called mutations. A virus with one or more new mutations is referred to as a variant of the original virus.
So Far Research On Mrna Covid
Vaccine effectiveness studies provide a growing body of evidence that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines offer similar protection in real-world conditions as they have in clinical trial settings, reducing the risk of COVID-19, including severe illness, among people who are fully vaccinated by 90 percent or more. Most vaccine effectiveness data now available are related to mRNA vaccines. Data related to the J& J/Janssen vaccine will be shared when available.
In addition to providing protection against COVID-19, there is increasing evidence that COVID-19 vaccines also provide protection against COVID-19 infections without symptoms . COVID-19 vaccination can reduce the spread of disease overall, helping protect people around you.
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Apple Has A New Return To Office Date: Indefinite
Apple, which had already delayed its employees return to physical offices from September to October to January to February, has a new timeline: to be determined.
Tim Cook, Apples chief executive, told employees in a message viewed by The New York Times on Wednesday that the company was delaying a return to hybrid work to a date yet to be determined.
He said the decision was made because of the surge of the coronavirus around the world, fueled by the contagious Omicron variant. Mr. Cook also said the company would provide an additional $1,000 to each employee to help furnish home offices.
The company confirmed the postponement but declined to comment further.
The news came on the heels of Apples temporarily closing three retail stores, in Miami, Annapolis, Md., and Ottawa, amid a spike of positive tests and exposure among employees at those stores.
Unlike other big tech companies like Facebook, which has allowed employees to request to work from home permanently, Apple has maintained that it wants its workers to return to the office at least part-time when it is safe to do so. That has led to conflict with some of its workers, who fought this plan over the summer, a clash that evolved into AppleToo, a broader activist movement at the company.
With its new indefinite timeline, Apple joins a growing list of companies that have bowed to the unpredictable ebbs and flows of the pandemic by scrapping specific return dates.
Regarding Coronavirus Variants How Concerned Should We Be
Most of the genetic changes we see in this virus are like the scars people accumulate over a lifetime incidental marks of the road, most of which have no great significance or functional role, Ray says. When the evidence is strong enough that a viral genetic change is causing a change in the behavior of the virus, we gain new insight regarding how this virus works. The virus seems to have some limitations in its evolution the advantageous mutations are drawn from a relatively limited menu so there is some hope that we might not see variants that fully escape our vaccines.
As far as these variants are concerned, we dont need to overreact, Bollinger says. But, as with any virus, changes are something to be watched, to ensure that testing, treatment and vaccines are still effective. The scientists will continue to examine new versions of this coronaviruss genetic sequencing as it evolves.”
In the meantime, we need to continue all of our efforts to prevent viral transmission and to vaccinate as many people as possible, and as soon as we can.
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Does Omicron Escape The Vaccines
Findings from a very small study involving just 12 people in South Africa, which have been released through a preprint, indicate that the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could be significantly reduced against omicron, with a 41-fold lower level of neutralising antibodies when compared with a variant of the virus that was widespread in the early stages of the pandemic .7
Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said, Whilst the amount of virus killing observed in the lab is reduced markedlyup to 40-times reductionthere is still measurable virus neutralisation, especially in those who were vaccinated and previously infected. This group effectively mimics what we would expect in people who have had two doses of vaccine plus a boost . . . Thats why we still need to get the message across: get vaccinated, get boosted, even if you have been infected before.
Do Boosters Boost Immunity Against Omicron
Initial data reinforces that a third dose would help boost immune response and protection against omicron, with estimates of 70%-75% effectiveness.
Pfizer has reported that people who have received two doses of its vaccine are susceptible to infection from omicron, but that a third shot improves antibody activity against the virus. This was based on lab experiments using the blood of people who have received the vaccine.
Booster doses can increase the amount of antibodies and the ability of a persons immune system to protect against omicron. However, unlike the U.S., much of the world does not have access to booster doses.
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A Virus Outbreak Among Cleveland Browns Continues An Nfl Surge
The Cleveland Browns placed 14 players, including quarterback Baker Mayfield, on the Covid-19 list on Tuesday and Wednesday, and it comes amid a spike in confirmed positive coronavirus tests among N.F.L. players.
The outbreak among the Browns has threatened the teams availability for Saturdays game against the Las Vegas Raiders and highlighted the difficulty of containing the coronavirus while also trying to keep the N.F.L. schedule on track.
The cluster of cases on the Browns is part of a nationwide surge that has also affected N.B.A. and N.H.L. organizations despite their high vaccination rates and has made sports leagues reconsider their protocols.
On Monday, the N.F.L. reached a single-day high in the number of positive coronavirus tests among players. Over 94 percent of players are inoculated, according to the league.
Coach Kevin Stefanski of the Browns tested positive, the team announced Wednesday, adding that he would work virtually ahead of Clevelands game against the Raiders. Under N.F.L. protocols, Stefanski, like all vaccinated players and staff members, can return once he produces two negative tests 24 hours apart and shows no symptoms. If he does not clear protocols before Saturday, the special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will act as head coach for the game.
The Browns are one of several N.F.L. teams dealing with coronavirus disruptions. Leaguewide, 37 players tested positive for the virus on Monday, the highest tally during the pandemic.
What Is Who Doing To Monitor And Understand The Impact Of Virus Variants On The Efficacy Of Covid
WHO has been tracking mutations and variants since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. Our global SARS-CoV-2 laboratory network includes a dedicated Virus Evolution Working Group, which aims to detect new changes quickly and assess their possible impact.
Research groups have carried out genomic sequencing of the COVID-19 virus and shared these sequences on public databases, including GISAID. This global collaboration allows scientists to better track how the virus is changing. WHO recommends that all countries increase the sequencing of the COVID-19 virus where possible and share data to help one another monitor and respond to the evolving pandemic.
WHO has also established a SARS-CoV-2 Risk Monitoring and Evaluation Framework to identify, monitor and assess variants of concern. It will involve components like surveillance, research on variants of concern, and evaluation of the impact on diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. The framework will serve as a guide for manufacturers and countries on changes that may be needed for COVID-19 vaccines.
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A Covid Vaccine Booster Is Needed To Guard Against Omicron
Early studies indict a booster can guard againt omicron. “Boosters … enhance the vaccine protection against omicron,” Fauci said on Wednesday. “Our booster vaccine regimens work against omicron.”
“Individuals who have received two vaccines will most likely not have significant prevention from infection or any type of disease ,” BioNTech CEO UÄur Åahin said last week. Åahin said more information is needed to confirm the company’s initial laboratory findings that indicate a third Pfizer vaccine dose is important to guard against the variant.
Pfizer Ceo: New Data About Effectiveness Of Booster Against Omicron Is Very Good News
“Laboratory data are never fully definitive on the efficacy of the vaccines,” said John Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the Weill Cornell Medical College. “The more definitive answer will come from real-world data on what actually happens to vaccinated people who have received two or three doses.”
Will a significant number of fully vaccinated, but not boosted, people turn up in hospitals, infected with the omicron variant?
“As of now, Im reasonably optimistic that we will not see this happen,” Moore said.
On Tuesday, a South African research institute also released lab results on how the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine fared against omicron, showing about a fortyfold reduction in vaccine-induced antibodies that could neutralize the new variant. That study didn’t look at booster shots, however.
Moments after those results were released, researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden posted their own lab findings, which also found a drop in antibody levels against the new variant.
Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, said Tuesday night that it is still unclear whether the variant can evade protection against severe illness as the lab studies only look at one component of the immune system.
He said so-called memory B cells and T cells also play important roles.
If the variant is found to evade protection provided by vaccination in real-world studies, people should get booster shots of an omicron-specific vaccine, he said.
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