Omicron variant, does the vaccine protect? The first data from Israel

They seem to arrive good news from Israel. Indeed, the first data on the protection of the vaccine against the new Omicron variant discovered for the first time in South Africa, and already landed in many countries of the world, including Italy, appear comforting. In South Africa, new Coronavirus cases reported jumped from around 300 per day in mid-November to around 3,000, recording the fastest rate of increase in the world.

The variant has a very large number of mutations never seen before, over 50, including more than 32 on the spike protein it uses to attach itself to host cells. This high degree of mutation is worrying, but the concerns may be overkill.

L’Pfizer / BioNTech inventor Ugur Sahin explained that the current generation of Covid-19 vaccines probably will still protect you from serious consequences in people who contract the infection in the form of the Omicron variant. The new, highly mutated variant could cause multiple vaccinated people to become infected, “but even if it is able to evade antibodies in vaccinated people, it will likely still be targeted by immune cells.”

The point therefore remains the same: push the accelerator on third doses, to keep vaccination coverage high in the greatest number of people, and reinforce the famous shield effect of vaccines. Clear and simple concept: the more vaccinated people there are, the more the virus “beats” against the barrier and is sent back, until, not finding fertile ground to settle, it weakens until it almost disappears.

Do vaccines protect against the Omicron variant? What the data from Israel say

According to the first indications, individuals fully vaccinated against Covid within 6 months or with the third dose already taken are also protected against the Omicron variant. This was announced by the Israeli Minister of Health Nitzan Horowitz. Even though three doctors have contracted Omicron despite the three doses of Pfizer vaccine.

“In the next few days we will have more precise information on the effectiveness of the vaccine against the Omicron, but there is already room for optimism, and there are the first indications that even those who will be vaccinated with a vaccine that is still valid or with a booster will be protected by this variant, ”Horowitz said. Who added: “The vaccine is really crucial right now. Anyone exposed to the variant without a vaccine will run unnecessary risks “.

The contagiousness of this new mutation currently appears to be 1.3 times higher than the Delta. Delta was already 6 times more infectious than the “original” Chinese version and often compared to chicken pox. However, Omicron doesn’t seem that dangerous, and this is the aspect that we really should emphasize.

From what is learned, the vaccinated have no significant symptoms, they develop a mild disease, even if the Israeli experts get their hands on, saying that “for now it is preliminary information”.

A report released by Israeli TV Channel 12 claimed that Pfizer vaccine is only slightly less effective in preventing Omicron variant infection than Delta (90% vs 95%) while is equally effective in preventing severe symptoms, around 93%. the unvaccinated people, on the other hand, are 2.4 times more likely to develop severe symptoms.

That said, the situation in Israel is absolutely under control and the government has made it known that there is no intention of imposing restrictions. The entry ban for foreign tourists is only temporary and will not be automatically renewed.

Omicron has been identified in at least 20 countries to date, and there are several experts who raise doubts that the pandemic is about to resume its run once again. On the contrary: the fact that this new mutation presents itself with very mild symptoms in the vaccinated it would indicate that the pandemic, perhaps, is slowing down, and we could soon begin to see its end (here we talked about which are the “different” symptoms to pay attention to in order to recognize it).

WHO urges not to travel

Meanwhile, with the diffusion of the new variant, while Japan closes its borders, comes a strong warning from the WHO not to travel, addressed to the over 60 and fragile people, which “should postpone the trips”.

In particular, WHO addresses “people who are unwell or are at risk of developing a serious Covid-19 disease and dying, including people aged 60 or over or those with comorbidities”. Among the diseases considered at risk, the WHO cites for example heart disease, cancer and diabetes. However, in its note, the World Health Organization invites all travelers to remain vigilant and to get vaccinated when it is their turn.

The World Health Organization, which pointed out that the variant is “a reminder, it’s not over yet”, then praised South Africa and Botswana for their surveillance and sequencing capabilities and for the speed and transparency with which they have communicated and shared information with the WHO Secretariat on the Omicron variant. Recalling that South Africa made the first report on 24 November last, WHO explained that “these actions have allowed other countries to rapidly adapt their response measures in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

According to Anthony Fauci, a White House consultant and leading infectious disease expert, it will take 2 to 4 weeks for preliminary answers to be available on Omicron’s true contagiousness and vaccine efficacy.

Vaccination obligation in Italy and third dose

Meanwhile, in Europe, the front of the countries that have decided or are evaluating thevaccination obligation. In Italy shooting for some categories starting from 15 December (which categories of people who must undergo the Covid vaccine before that date, and what if they don’t).

While the AIFA ruling on the vaccine for children aged 5-11 is awaited (here we have explained to you how effective and important is the vaccine for children and what side effects, if any, may be), from Wednesday 1 December the third doses start for everyone aged 18 and over, without the division into age groups.

The Regions move in no particular order but in many it is necessary to book. In others, however, you are called directly following an order of priority (here who should book the third dose and who not and how to do it in each Region).

The Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla meanwhile in a series of tweets he explained that “we are ready to face a variant like Omicron”. From studies on Beta and Delta variants, Pfizer managed to create an approach to develop and manufacture new versions of the vaccine in about 100 days, if necessary.

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