Omicron more contagious and weakens vaccine efficacy: WHO report

The new variant of coronavirus termed ‘Omicron’ is said to be more transmissible than the Delta variant and can lessens vaccine's effectiveness, reports the World Health Organization.

First identified in India, the Delta strain was reported to be the primary cause of rise in number of COVID-19 cases identified across the globe this year.

However, the discovery of the Omicron variant in South Africa last month, which has many mutations, encouraged countries worldwide to impose travel bans on southern African countries and reinstate domestic restrictions to slow its spread.

According to WHO, as of December 9, cases of Omicron variant have been reported across 63 countries across the globe. Quicker transmission of the new variant has been observed in South Africa where the Delta variant is less dominant, as well as in Britain, where Delta is a more prevalent strain.

Although the agency also stressed that a lack of data does not mean that the Omicron's transmission rate was due to it being less susceptible to immune responses, higher transmissibility, or a combination of both.

The early evidence recommends that Omicron causes a decrease in vaccine effectiveness against infection and transmission.

Owing to the currently available data, it is estimated that Omicron will outdo the Delta variant where communal transmission occurs, WHO added.

So far, the Omicron infections have caused mild illness or asymptomatic cases. However, the WHO says that the data is inadequate to find the severity of the new variant.

Last week, vaccine manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech said that three doses of their vaccine are still effective against the new variant Omicron.

Countries with appropriate vaccine supplies, such as France and Britain, have advised their citizens to take a third booster jab to prevent infection against the new Omicron variant.

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By Priya Deshmukh

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