Bengaluru covid vaccine
A healthcare worker inoculates a beneficiary with a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Image Credit: ANI

With each passing day, scientists and medical researchers are learning more and more about the Omicron variant of coronavirus. Since it was first discovered in South Africa less than a month ago, the new strain has already become dominant there and has spread quickly across much of Africa and Europe.

So far, we know that Omicron has the potential to increase transmission rates.

Despite initial fears that the new variant would be dominant, there seems to be a growing body of medical evidence to suggest that it causes a less severe case of Covid-19. That is good news.

There were also fears too, as is the case with any new variant, that the strain might prove to be vaccine resistant. The body of evidence suggests that it is not, though a third booster jab to the two already administered as part of the initial vaccine protocol provides very high immunisation against Omicron. The message here would be that we collectively need to ensure that we get as many needles into as many arms as possible.

We have been through so much over these past 22 months that we are aware of the public health measures that assist in slowing the spread of coronavirus and its variants. We know that social distancing helps stop the transmission of the virus. Masks too are essential in the fight, so too washing hands regularly and practising simple steps like keeping rooms well ventilated. Many too have been advised to avoid large gatherings or work from home where possible in many nations.

It is a little more than a year ago that nations began the fightback in earnest, rolling out mass vaccination programmes. These have been effective and allowed for a return to something like normalcy. They are our best defence still, and can be tweaked to ward off new strains.

It’s important to note that the World Health Organisation set a goal of having 40 per cent of the world’s population vaccinated by the end of the 2021. We are short of that goal, and that failure to distribute vaccines around the world means that coronavirus has more time to be able to mutate into new strains. As long as nations fail to help poorer ones and spread vaccines, there remains the threat of further mutation — prolonging the pandemic.