Chris Woolams, head of the UK’s largest cancer charity, discusses omicron here for background reading.
According to Woolams: “A new study from Columbia University has shown that no mRNA vaccines or boosters work against Omicron. The Study was entitled 'Striking Antibody evasion Manifested by the Omicron variant.' However, the good news is that this may well not be the case for the AstraZeneca Oxford University vaccine which works a completely different way by boosting attacker T-cells. These have widespread abilities. While the antibodies to mRNA vaccines decline rapidly, the AZ T-cell boost does not seem to do this. Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert, a vaccinologist and expert in T-cells at Oxford University, is even saying booster shots may well not be needed with the AZ vaccine.”
Will future variants be worse? According to Dr Paul Elias Alexander, an expert epidemiologist, former Associate Professor at McMaster University and former advisor to the WHO and on Pandemic Policy to the US Government, the answer is ‘No’. Typically viruses get more infectious but weaker as they mutate. Exactly what we are seeing with omicron.
Can you catch Omicron if you have previously had Covid? Research from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases in South Africa shows ‘Yes’, you can, but that the reduced risk of contracting Omicron is 84% if you have previously had Covid. So Natural Immunity seems best. There was also no increased risk of catching Omicron if you previously had beta or delta, but after you have had Omicron, you can catch it again. What we are actually seeing is the sort of data that happens with the common cold.
How long is the period between infection and symptoms? It looks like the gestation period for Omicron may be just 36-48 hours not 5-6 days as with Delta. Indeed Professor Salim Abdool Karim, a clinical epidemiologist and infectious disease expert at Columbia University and vice-chancellor of KwaZuluNatal in SA, is saying that virus infections from Omicron are doubling every one and a half days, a much higher rate than other variants.
Can a PCR test detect Omicron? Another concern is that the PCR tests seem to miss about 40% of omicron infections. And Lateral Flow tests seem not much better. So you could take the test and seem clear when boarding the aeroplane. And again when taking the test at your destination, but 24 hours later you might develop the cold-like symptoms of omicron. This makes foreign travel hazardous, for both the traveler and the recipient country.
The latest comment from the WHO is the ‘Omicron could change the face of the pandemic’.