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Omicron

Colin Dang

 

The Omicron Variant: Keep Calm and Carry On?

 

Just when you thought it was safe to take up the reins again, there’s something new to frighten the horses. There’s as much misinformation as useful guidance around the latest Covid-19 variant, so Colin looked at the data…

It’s becoming a familiar theme. Just as last year, we’re being advised to avoid Christmas parties and be careful when shopping. Although that message is by no means consistent.

Other figures urge us to not cancel foreign holiday or domestic Christmas arrangements, as though visiting busy, enclosed spaces like pubs or restaurants where everyone’s vaccine status is unknown, is clinically better than visiting a fully-vaccinated family to enjoy the festivities. So, why the disparity in messaging? The answer is there are still too many ‘known unknowns’ to offer informed advice.

Because the omicron variant is still new, scientists don’t yet have meaningful data. The government has heard enough, though, to add less-vaccinated countries, where the virus has more opportunity to circulate, mutate and ultimately travel, to the growing no-go list. Good job the World Health Organization (WHO) use the Greek alphabet to name the new strains. Plenty of options left.

 

What we know:

 

You may get Covid twice: Preliminary evidence seen by the WHO suggest there may be an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron as compared to other variants of concern, but more information will become available in the near future.  

Testing remains effective: The same source explains the standard PCR tests will detect all known variants, including Omicron. Studies will confirm whether other test types, including rapid antigen detection tests, offer the same assurances. 

Infections are growing fast: The UK Health Security Agency is tallying the confirmed cases of the SARS-CoV-2 variant known as B.1.1.529. The number of confirmed cases in England is now 29. The regional breakdown has, so far, identified none in Sussex.

Vaccinations help: Dr Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of UKHSA, said: “Vaccination is critical to help us bolster our defences against this new variant – please get your first, second, third or booster jab without delay.”

What we do not know yet:

How contagious it is: Because South Africa, something of an omicron hub at the moment, uses different vaccines and testing, it’s not a straight like-for-like comparison, although infection rates are growing exponentially.  

If it is more deadly than other variants: Again, the consensus seems to be that it is too soon to say. Clearly, the authorities in the USA, UK and the world over don’t want to cause widespread concern until they no more. Which may explain the ambiguous messaging.

Are there any more variants out there? Johns Hopkins University are the go-to resource for many media outlets, including the BBC, and differentiate between variants of “interest”, “concern” and “high consequence”. Nothing so far…

Do vaccinations offer the complete solution? Again, it’s a wait-and-see situation. Stuart Ray MD of Johns Hopkins University, says, “There is evidence from laboratory studies that some immune responses driven by current vaccines could be less effective against some of these variants.

So, what should you do?

In the absence of firm guidance, and that won’t happen until the scientists have enough data to analyse, it makes sense to stick with the hygiene practices that have got you this far.

The picture is better than 12 months ago, and the UK’s vaccine rollout offers previously unavailable protection. Some pharmacies are offering vaccinations and Coda is ready to help if required.

In the meantime, we offer everything you need to stay safe during the festivities, including anti-bacterial hand gel. If you prefer to avoid our two high street pharmacies, then Coda are happy to offer free delivery of NHS prescriptions from our online pharmacy.

Our message at least is clear. Apply the precautionary principle. Observe social distancing where you can, avoid unnecessary gatherings, particularly the prime minister’s parties, maintain your handwashing and antibacterial regimes, get the jab, and keep an eye on our site for updates as we get them.

In the meantime, seasons greetings to all our customers from myself and the team!

 

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Thanks

Coda Team

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