On 26 November 2021, the World Health Organisation (WHO) designated COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, called “Omicron”, a cause for concern. While little is known about this variant, scientists have noted its increased transmissibility and potency when compared it its predecessor, Delta. According to Guyana’s Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony, vaccine efficacy among double-dose recipients tends to wane against Omicron, effectively necessitating a third dose to boost defence.
“In terms of vaccine efficacy, with Omicron we have seen that persons who would have two doses of vaccine, they have shown a reduced efficacy in fighting the Omicron variant. And so, what is being recommended in many countries across the World, is those persons who have completed their two-dose vaccination to come and get a booster dose. Because with the booster dose, your antibody level goes up and you’re more prepared to fight off this particular variant. So, that is why many countries are now offering booster doses,” he said during a recent COVID-19 update.
Guyana recently began administering booster shots to its populace with more than 6,000 persons (18 years and older) receiving jabs. In terms of illness and severity, Dr Anthony said that fully vaccinated persons tend to contract a milder form of the infection.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) released a bulletin earlier this week alerting persons that the variant was found in more than 67 countries. Dr Anthony opined the possibility of this number increasing in the coming days. The Minister said that arrival of Omicron is imminent, and Guyanese must be attentive and sensible.
“We have to be attentive. For most countries, it is going to be very difficult to prevent Omicron from coming to your country. It’s just a matter of when, and as most of the scientists are anticipating, the Omicron is going to become the dominant variant – it’s going to displace the Delta variant…So it’s just a matter of time when it would come to a country and therefore, we have to start preparing; we have to start taking precautions,” the Minister stressed.
He urged that the COVID-19 protocols be followed especially during the upcoming festive season.