What does Omicron mean for Canada’s vaccinated majority?

And what does the new COVID-19 variant mean for the unvaccinated, single-vaccinated and those with a booster shot?

Article content

News of the Omicron variant has caused many Canadians to fear another lockdown, two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.

Advertising

Article content

Authorities remain on high alert in Canada since confirming at least seven cases of the variant on Tuesday, but early data from South Africa, which first reported the variant’s development, suggest it has mostly been targeted at the unvaccinated.

So what does the Omicron variant mean for a Canadian population whose majority is vaccinated?

It is too early to say for sure, but it is possible that a highly vaccinated population may reduce the variant’s transmissibility and the likelihood of serious illness and increased hospitalizations, said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious disease doctor at Trillium hospital.

“It is important to note that we can not come to any strong conclusions about anything (right now),” Chakrabarti stressed.

Advertising

Article content

Omicron was first reported – but did not necessarily originate – in South Africa last week and was identified on November 26 as a ‘variant of concern’ by the World Health Organization.

The concern, scientists say, lies in the total of 32 mutations found on its tip protein – the most detected to date in a COVID-19 variant. Some of these mutations, experts say, have similarities to those discovered in previous variants, associated with higher transmissibility and greater likelihood of vaccine evasion.

It will take another couple of weeks before WHO officials can say where the pathogenic virus is, but in the meantime they have warned that it could cause a “high global risk of infection increases”.

Advertising

Article content

More than 20 countries – the UK, the Netherlands, Israel, Botswana, Sweden and Japan to name a few – have confirmed Omicron cases, with some infections found in patients already vaccinated against COVID-19.

DOUBLE VACCINATED

Thanks to a strict vaccination rollout in the past month, more than 78 percent of Canadians are vaccinated, of which only a minority are partially vaccinated. Which to some extent could mean hopeful news for Canadians.

Although it is difficult to be sure, it is unlikely that the variant would completely “knock out the protection we get from the vaccines,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease expert at Dalhousie University’s Department of Medicine.

Although the variant has been shown to bypass the immune barriers that protect the body against infection, early observational data in South Africa seem to show that vaccines still provide a certain level of protection, and the double-dose ones have so far had only mild symptoms.

Advertising

Article content

Usually, when a body develops an immune response to a virus, either naturally or using a vaccine, it means that a host of antibodies and T cells are created, which focus their attacks on different areas of the virus’ nail protein. Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system to neutralize a virus by blocking its ability to invade a cell, while T cells, a type of white blood cell, kill the infected cells and coordinate the attacks.

Each COVID-19 vaccine targets the virus’ tip protein – the component that helps the virus enter a human cell – the most vital part of which is the receptor binding domain, a region of the protein that allows the virus to bind to the human cell. , before invading it.

Advertising

Article content

Of the 32 mutations detected on Omicron’s nail protein, the receptor binding domain is one of them, meaning that antibodies targeted to the specific region may have more difficulty in repelling the virus from its selected cell.

But they could still be successful with their attacks on other areas of the nail protein, which “are not so likely” to have mutated that much, and that would still guarantee the vaccine some success against the variant, Barrett explained.

So rather than no protection at all, the vaccine’s immunity can only be diminished by the mutations, but still effective, Barrett said.

It’s like using a dimmer switch to turn on the light in a room – “If you have immunity, the dimmer will turn on the light,” she said. “The light may be a little dim, but it will not necessarily go away completely.”

Advertising

Article content

SINGLE DOSE

Chakrabarti said it might not make a significant difference whether you have been dosed once or twice because it would take some time to see if there is any difference in the immunity one gets from a single dose or a double dose. against Omicron.

“(But) I do not think the difference will be huge,” he said.

Earlier in the summer, it turned out that long waits between first and second shots, due to lack of vaccine supplies, inadvertently prolonged the immune response, strengthening the vaccine’s overall protection against the virus and its variants. “(The single vaccine dose) will certainly still provide some degree of protection,” he said.

UVACCINATED

However, the quarter of Canadians who remain unvaccinated may be a different story.

Advertising

Article content

“It depends on how much exposure they had to COVID-19,” Chakrabarti said. “But we also do not know if you have been naturally infected, will that protection be less?”

Early reports, he said, seem to indicate a range of symptoms from milder muscle pain, low-grade fever to terrible cough and shortness of breath in the intensive care unit, the severity of which depends on a person’s vaccination status.

“The one thing to remember is that the symptoms of the virus are just like any other virus,” he said. “And generally, if you are vaccinated, you are less likely to get symptoms if you are exposed.”

Canada’s high vaccination rate, he added, would not only potentially reduce symptoms of the virus, but also cut back on the variant’s common spread and, most importantly, keep people away from the hospital.

Advertising

Article content

“It is difficult for the virus to spread very widely,” Chakrabarti said. “Because there are so many people who are immune to it, they can still get symptoms, but you do not suddenly see an explosion of people in the hospital. And that is really our primary concern – keeping people out of the hospital.”

BOOSTER SHOTS

On Tuesday, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told the Financial Times that he believes there may be a “significant drop” in the vaccine’s effectiveness against the virus compared to that of Delta. “I just do not know how much, because we have to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve talked to. . . is like ‘this is not going to be good,’ “Bancel said.

Global experts have already urged people to get their booster shots in hopes of doubling protection against the virus.

Advertising

Article content

“I would strongly suggest that you be boosted now and not wait for the next iteration of it that we may not even need,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to the White House, to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos Monday on “Good Morning America,” adding that he “would not at all” recommend waiting.

“We are finding out fairly quickly whether higher levels of antibody to the original vaccine we have used, whether it can affect protection against this.”

But if you are already double-dosed, Barrett said she doubts a third booster could do better, especially when there is much unknown about how the virus would react to the vaccine at all.

“There’s a good rationale for boosting people who have declining immunity from what we knew before, and that’s good for Delta,” she said, “but to be clear, we do not know it will help us. out here to boost the same vaccine. against Omicron. “

Instead, she argued for ensuring effective public health measures to limit the spread of the variant, more than it already has. “We really can not forget the other measures, masking, testing, we just can not do it,” she said. “We still have a large proportion of people who hang out together, namely children under the age of 11 who have not been vaccinated yet. So it’s a little early for us to just let it all take over until we know more about Omicron. ”

Advertising

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourages all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments can take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications – you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, which is an update to a comment thread you follow, or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on adjusting your email settings.

Follow us on Google News

Disclaimers for mcutimes.com

All the information on this website - https://mcutimes.com - is published in good faith and for general information purpose only. mcutimes.com does not make any warranties about the completeness, reliability, and accuracy of this information. Any action you take upon the information you find on this website (mcutimes.com), is strictly at your own risk. mcutimes.com will not be liable for any losses and/or damages in connection with the use of our website.

Give a Comment