Omicron variant: Doctor warns of risk of reinfection
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Scientists have been working hard to find out if those with T-cell immunity are safe from the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus or not. The first cases of the Omicron variant were confirmed last week in the UK causing major concern for UK citizens and pushing the British Government into reintroducing measures to avoid the spread of the virus. South African epidemiologist Dr Harry Moultrie told talkRADIO host Julia Hartley-Brewer specifics about the virus will become cleared within weeks but earlier data showed a “substantial” risk for people who already contracted the virus of becoming reinfected.
When asked about the transmissibility of the new variant, Dr Moultrie said: “It is early days and we don’t have a good reading yet on the escape from vaccination or protection from infection against vaccination or on the severity yet.
“And those are both critical questions that we need answered, what we have looked at however recently and we released our pre-print last night.
“It is s showing that there does seem to be a substantial change in the risk of re-infection, so these are amongst people who have previously had a confirmed Covid infection more than 90 days ago.”
Dr Moultrie added: “We have seen a substantial increase in the risks of those individuals becoming suspected reinfections with the Omicron variant.
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“That does provide quite a strong signal that this particular variant Omicron is able to escape the neutralising antibodies which protect us against infection.
“What is important to note though, is that it is really a different branch of the immune system are T-cells which protect us against severe disease.”
Discussing the immune system’s response to Omicron Dr Moultrie said: “And we don’t yet know whether this variant will be able to escape the T-cell responses.
“The early hope is that the T-cells will, on the whole, continue to provide protection from severe disease in those both win prior infection or who have been vaccinated.”
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World Health Organisations chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, has been urging people not to panic over the new variant.
Dr Swaminathan said: “How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we’re in a different situation to a year ago.
“Delta accounts for 99 percent of infections around the world. This variant would have to be more transmissible to out-compete and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but it’s not possible to predict.”
Dr Swaminathan added: “We need to wait, lets hope it’s milder … but it’s too early to conclude about the variant as a whole,”
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Boris Johnson announced a new target for the UK earlier this week as he offered all adults a booster vaccine with a time frame to have all adults vaccinated with a COVID-19 booster by the end of January 2022.
Mr Johnson made it clear during his press conference earlier this week that with the emergence of the Omicron variant, more people needed to come forward and get vaccinated.
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