The World Health Organization (WHO)’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told ET on Monday that it will take more time to fully understand Omicron, the new Covid-19 variant that was first detected in South Africa last week. “It will take some time to understand how it behaves,” Swaminathan said, adding that the variant may have spread to other countries.
“It is likely that many other countries, if they start looking for this variant, would probably find it in the coming days,” she said. She added that it is still not known how well existing vaccines will work against the Omicron variant.
Shahid Jameel, virologist and director of Trivedi School of Biosciences at Ashoka University, also believes that it is too early to say whether the new variant will cause more severe disease. “Early indication is that the symptoms are ‘unusual but mild’. This will be tracked closely over the coming weeks and months,” he said.
Jameel said that while it is possible that effectiveness of existing vaccines may be compromised, it is unlikely they will become useless, “We don’t have answers to these questions. Ongoing laboratory studies are testing how effectively sera from vaccinated or recovered persons will neutralize this variant. The large numbers of mutations and their location is causing concern,” he said, adding that India should be cautious not worried.Internet Explorer Channel Network