WHO warns of « potential » resistance to vaccines

People line up to get vaccinated in Sevenoaks, England on December 13, 2021.

The Omicron variant of the new coronavirus continues its meteoric growth in the world, and in particular across the Channel. In the aftermath of new restrictions announced on Sunday to limit  » a tsunami «  ahead, urging the population to get vaccinated, the British Prime Minister said on Monday (December 13th) that a first patient had died after contracting the Omicron variant. For its part, the World Health Organization has transmitted new information on this mutant of the coronavirus.

  • WHO reports rapid spread and « potential immune escape »

Identified in more than sixty countries, the Omicron variant could oppose a form of « Resistance » vaccine and benefit from rapid dissemination, but clinical data on the severity of the cases of Covid-19 that it triggers remain incomplete, according to the WHO.

In a technical note published on Sunday, the UN organization based in Geneva reaffirms its initial assessment of a general risk  » very high «  associated with this variant of concern, and cautions that preliminary data suggest that there is an increase in cases of reinfection in South Africa, one of the first countries in which this variant has been identified. « These data suggest a potential phenomenon of immune escape and high rates of transmission, which could result in new epidemic outbreaks with serious consequences », observes the WHO.

It seems that the antibodies of people vaccinated against Covid-19 or who have already been infected with the coronavirus are not sufficient to « Neutralize » contamination by the Omicron variant, which would potentially exhibit an increased ability to re-infect people who are believed to be able to develop an immune response against this virus.

Read also Omicron variant: what we know about the neutralizing activity of antibodies, the risk of reinfection and the effectiveness of vaccines

Regarding the cases of Covid-19 resulting from contamination by the Omicron variant, the first data suggest that they could be less severe forms than those linked to infections by the Delta variant, currently largely in the majority across the world, especially in France. « But more data is needed to understand the severity profile » precise of this variant, notes the WHO.

« Even if the severity [des cas de Covid-19 associés à Omicron] were to be lower than for the Delta variant, we expect hospitalizations to increase due to its increased transmissibility ”, warns the WHO, stressing that the risks are therefore not negligible for health systems as well as in terms of the number of deaths.

  • 40% of infections in London, one death due to Omicron

The UK said on Monday that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was responsible for around 40% of infections in London since the first cases of the new variant were detected on November 27 in the country. « It’s spreading at a phenomenal rate, something we’ve never seen before, infections are doubling every two or three days »Health Minister Sajid Javid told Sky News.

“Unfortunately, Omicron generates hospitalizations and it has been confirmed that at least one patient has died [des suites d’une contamination] to the Omicron variant ”, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday during a visit to a vaccination center in London as he relies on a massive vaccine booster campaign to curb the spread of the variant.

On Monday, the English football championship recorded 42 new cases of Covid-19, a record since test results began to be published in May 2020, the Premier League announced, without it being known whether some cases are due to the Omicron variant. Only a dozen cases were reported last week, but outbreaks of Covid have since appeared in several top clubs, such as Manchester United where the game scheduled for Tuesday in Brentford has been postponed.

According to the government, if no action is taken, there could be a million people infected with Omicron by the end of the month in the UK. After braking to take certain restrictive measures in the face of the epidemic, the British government intends to provide a booster dose to all adults by New Year, an ambitious goal given the Christmas holidays and the fact that vaccination one million people a day is roughly double the current 530,000 a day. According to data released on Friday, the efficacy of vaccines against symptomatic Omicron-related infection would be significantly reduced with just two doses, while a third injection would increase protection by up to more than 70%.

Read our decryption: Article reserved for our subscribers Why it takes time to assess the dangerousness of the Omicron variant
  • In France, alert from the scientific council

In France too, the new variant could experience a  » rapid growth « , alerted the scientific council in an opinion published on Monday. According to him, the first information available suggests that he could replace « Gradually the Delta variant in the first weeks of 2022 ». As Christmas draws near « It is therefore essential to avoid (…) the appearance of giant clusters which would accelerate this dynamic ”, advocates the scientific council, which guides the government during the pandemic. In the past 24 hours, 472 people with Covid-19 have been admitted to French hospitals.

« Even a slight reinforcement of barrier gestures, teleworking as well as a reduction in contacts can have a very significant impact » on the current wave due to the Delta variant, according to the instance, which encourages a booster dose as soon as possible and reminds that crosses between different types of vaccines are possible.

the Denmark expects the Omicron variant to become the majority in Copenhagen as early as this week, health officials said on Monday. As of Monday evening, 3,437 cases of Omicron had been listed in the Scandinavian kingdom, or 966 more in twenty-four hours. The interval between the second and third dose of vaccine has been reduced from six months to four and a half months for those over 40 years of age. The country introduced new restrictions last week with the closure of schools and colleges, reduction of nightlife and the spread of teleworking.

To United States, 37 professional American Football League (NFL) players contracted Covid-19 on Monday, ESPN reports, which is for the NFL the highest number of positive cases deplored in a single day since the start of the pandemic. The NFL Network, the league’s official body, has reported that an employee of the Washington team has tested positive for the Omicron variant. This is the first case in the league. This employee, known as “level 3”, is in principle not in contact with the players, coaches or staff of the team.

The China detected its first case of Omicron, state media across the country reported on Monday. Authorities in the northeastern city of Tianjin spotted the variant in a person returning from abroad, without specifying which country it was, according to the report. Tianjin Daily. The patient, asymptomatic, tested positive last Thursday and further analyzes have « Confirmed the detection of (…) Omicron variant « , according to the newspaper, which adds that this patient was hospitalized and put in isolation.

The world’s most populous country is on the lookout for new outbreaks as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics in Beijing in February. Health officials have ordered stricter protocols in port cities like Tianjin, located about 140 kilometers from the capital. China has managed to drastically reduce its Covid cases thanks to a combination of border controls, massive testing campaigns and targeted lockdowns.

The World with AFP

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