UPDATES AND COMMENTARIES

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OMICRON - THE Q4/2021 VARIANT
December 6, 2021

Omicron, the latest variant of SARS-Cov-2, has led to considerable uncertainty around the globe because of its rapid transmissibility and concern about its potency in COVID-19 disease. This new variant, named after the Greek letter, omicron (WHO having skipped Nu and Xi), was first identified in southern Africa (https://www.who.int/news/item/28-11-2021-update-on-omicron) although recently reported as also having been identified in Europe.

Characterized by a high number of mutations, the variant includes some that could make it adept at evading the body’s natural or vaccine-acquired immune response resulting from its appearances worldwide necessarily related to increasing travel and the resumption of community activities. 

 

The rapid rise of Omicron in South Africa caused widespread anxiety because of uncertainty about the variant sparking explosive increases in COVID-19 cases elsewhere, evading immunity. Around one-quarter of South Africans are already fully vaccinated, and it’s likely that a large fraction of the population was infected with SARS-CoV-2 in earlier waves, underscoring the capacity of the strain to infect those vaccinated as well as those recovered from COVID-19, including that caused by Delta and previous variants.

 

Many reports, including as of this date by Dr. Fauci, link Omicron with mild disease, raising expectations that the variant might be less severe than some of its predecessors. These reports must be considered with caution.

In consequence, the repurposing of discovery and new drugs to limit the virus replication and indirect complications is still an imperative, not only in response to the emergence of this, but other variants that inevitably will occur. Therapeutic drugs – of which there are numerous marketed and in development (see COVID Pipeline report below) – will offer hope and a prospective resolution for the unvaccinated, particularly in low-income countries lagging far behind.

 
Emergency Use Authorizations During the COVID-19 Pandemic Lessons From Hydroxychloroquine for Vaccine Authorization and Approval
JAMA, October 10, 2020

"Because COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at an unprecedented pace, and because their review will also occur during a pandemic and in a presidential election year, lessons from the hydroxychloroquine authorization may apply to the regulation of these vaccines...questions are being raised about the rigor and speed with which the FDA will assess the safety and efficacy of vaccines before granting marketing authorizations via EUAs or licensure"