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21 Dec 2021

WHO Sounds Warning About Omicron Spreading Faster & Evading Immune Responses

The Index Today

The Head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is spreading faster than the Delta variant and is causing infections in vaccinated people or even the people who have recovered from the COVID-19 Disease.

Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan from WHO added that it would be "unwise" to conclude from early evidence that Omicron was a milder variant that previous ones.

"... with the numbers going up, all health systems are going to be under strain," Soumya Swaminathan told Geneva-based journalists.

The variant is actually evading some immune responses, she added.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the briefing that, "There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant."

"And it is more likely people vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 could be infected or re-infected," Tedros said.

Their comments are after the finding of study by Imperial College London, which said last week the five times higher risk of reinfection and it has shown no sign of being milder than the Delta variant.
WHO officials also mentioned that other forms of immunity vaccinations may prevent infection and disease.

WHO expert Abdi Mahamud added: "Although we are seeing a reduction in the neutralisation antibodies, almost all preliminary analysis shows T-cell mediated immunity remains intact, that is what we really require."

However, highlighting how few data is known about how to handle the new variant that was only detected last month, Swaminathan also said: "Of course there is a challenge, many of the monoclonals will not work with Omicron."

©Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS

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