Updated: Jun 18, 2022
By Michelle Ren
March 6, 2022
UPDATED 12:00 PM EST
[Photo Credit: Deseret News]
Assuming that 2022 would be a Covid-free year, many were shocked and fearful upon discovering the Coronavirus’s recent evolutionary changes. As the name “Omicron” instills a new sense of fear in our daily lives, it has become increasingly important to dissect the causes and influences of Covid variants.
As experts have started naming what was previously known as the “COVID-19” virus “SARS-CoV-2,” the public has become increasingly confused about the various Covid variants that exist. Thus, we should first remind ourselves of Covid’s history. Contrary to many beliefs, coronaviruses were not a recent development. In fact, this large family of viruses has existed for some time in animals. What we know as “COVID’19” or “SARS-CoV-2” was the first coronavirus to infect humans, leading to numerous respiratory illnesses.
Like any other virus, the coronavirus has the ability to change over time, causing Covid variants to emerge. Upon identifying “Omicron” as a “Variant of Concern,” the World Health Organization (WHO) warned of Omicron’s higher rate of transmissibility, reinfection, and intense clinical symptoms. Moreover, the WHO has stressed that the Omicron variant is less likely to respond to current vaccine treatment and social measures against coronavirus. Emerging in 77 countries to date, Omicron has become a dangerous variant of the coronavirus, spreading at unprecedented rates. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even as many of the infected report mild symptoms from Omicron, it is clear from the sheer number of Omicron cases that this variant has the potential to wreak havoc on our health systems.
To combat this new danger, the WHO highlights that taking the coronavirus booster shot has become a priority. In fact, smaller studies done in African nations have shown that taking the covid booster shot has the ability to restore protection against Omicron that two initial Pfizer doses cannot do. At the same time, taking this new step is risky as there is still limited evidence on whether or not the coronavirus booster shot has a direct impact on Omicron. Despite this, many nations are creating booster programmes for their adult populations as a way to implement additional measures against Omicron.
[Credit: European Pharmaceutical Review]
While some might argue that nations benefit from taking the initiative to roll out booster programmes, the WHO has become increasingly concerned that these programmes will repeat patterns of vaccine hoarding that occurred during past lockdown periods. This recurring cycle of vaccine hoarding will only worsen existing cases of inequity, preventing disadvantaged communities from gaining access to appropriate protection against Omicron.
Although the world is constantly taking steps against Omicron, it is important that we stay vigilant while tackling new Covid variants. In fact, according to Dr Amir Khan, it is theoretically possible for two coronavirus variants, circulating at the same time, to simultaneously infect one human cell. The mixed RNA genetic material from both variants would create a new (and deadly) recombinant variant. Ultimately, the constant examination of the Omicron variant will be necessary in order to stop the virus from further diversifying and wreaking havoc.
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