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Omicron Variant- second part to this story

Colin Dang

Omicron Variant 

 

To adapt the cliché, covid variants seem like London buses; nothing arrives for ages and suddenly you can’t move for the things. But is Omicron the worst, or just the latest?

Omicron is here for the holidays. Apart from Max Verstappen, nothing is moving quicker from country to country, it’s already 30 and counting.

We are all becoming more familiar than we’d like with the Greek language. Omicron is just the next named variant, more or less. It’s the 15lh letter of the Greek alphabet, and some suggest, the name of a constellation’s 15th star. But the literal translation isn’t important – what matters is what it means to us, a UK population increasingly weary of vaccinations and cancellations.

So, how bad is this new variant, how protected are you and – as part of the same question – how concerned should you be? Let’s get straight to it.

Let’s look at the positives, no pun intended, first. Researchers modelling Omicron at Imperial College London believe boosters to be up to 85% effective against severe illness. That’s not against catching Omicron, just its worst effects. Note: this is a reduction on the 90%+ booster effectiveness against Delta, the previous worst-yet Covid variant, and the reinfection risk is real.

The Word on the (High) Street

Beyond that – and a popular question in our two stores right now – is what value boosters offer when two vaccines are not deemed protection enough?

It’s a perfectly reasonable query. Why bother with three jabs when two isn’t protection enough to stop covid ruining our holidays?

First things first. The vaccines have kept the NHS (more or less) safe from Beta, Delta, and the rest. According to health officials in South Africa, from where this variant arrived, Omicron is supposed to be less serious, so why should we be worried?

Here’s why

Well, as this technical briefing from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) explains, there are reasons for that. It’s an apples v oranges comparison. South Africa wasn’t able to vaccinate widely, compared to the U.S. and Europe, and as this US blog reports, has better natural immunity thanks to three massive waves of covid. And while it’s been that bad, it’s not been South Africa bad.

South Africa is also a relatively young country, which means Covid could be more damaging to a more elderly population – and that’s us.

It also takes two weeks to from infection to (maybe) needing hospital care so when the Government says they don’t have the data to make the calls, you can believe them. On this one, anyway.

As the BBC explains here, UKSA analysed data from 581 Omicron cases against thousands of Delta cases. While that isn’t a big sample of the former – and no government would allow people to fall ill to fatten the data – there’s enough to conclude a drop in effectiveness for both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.

In short, as the Imperial College London confirms, having had covid, or both vaccines, doesn’t guarantee immunity from Omicron.

Vaccines – the insecurity forces

It also helps to explain what vaccines really are, rather than what we would like them to be.

Far from a silver bullet, vaccines are like troops flown in to help distant countries fight invading interlopers – a great boost (again, no pun intended) to the body’s defences, but there are no guarantees. The problem for those with both jabs is these vaccines were trained to fight something else, ie Beta and Delta, and less effective against Omicron.

Omicron looks and acts differently to previous strains. So, boosters are the additional soldiers parachuted in to help the war effort, especially for the over-50s, according to the BMJ. GOV.UK suggests more than 90% protection for the same age group. You want them on your side.  

The Coda view

This is a fast-moving situation and as we’ve established, we’re in the early stages of this latest instalment of the ongoing saga we call Covid. If you want to be around to see what happens at the end, we suggest being pragmatic. That means getting both jabs, and your booster.

And if you’re planning to meet family or friends, and there’s no decision from the UK government? Apply the precautionary principle. Wear a mask, stick to well-ventilated rooms. Use all the hygiene protections you can get your hands on.

Stay safe, stay well and stick around for the next chapter. Merry Christmas.

 

Coda Team

 

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