(MENAFN- The Peninsula)
#Covid-19 Fazeena Saleem |
The unprecedented global spread of the Omicron variant, together with the unprecedented global vaccination efforts including in Qatar, increase the likelihood to establish the level of herd immunity that will change COVID-19 from a pandemic virus into one that is endemic and seasonal, similar to influenza virus, according to a microbiology expert.
“The policies and restrictions that have governed how we survive against the virus for the past two years will need to change as we adjust to a co-existence with COVID-19. As we transition into the endemic phase of this COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that we develop a greater awareness of our own individual responsibility in the spread of infectious diseases, in terms of both protecting ourselves as well as protecting others,” Dr. Patrick Tang, Division Chief of Microbiology at Sidra Medicine, told The Peninsula.
Dr. Patrick Tang
“As a result of this pandemic, we no longer doubt the importance of face masks, we have been able to massively scale up our capacity for molecular testing of infectious diseases, we are able to track the spread and evolution of an infectious agent in real time through genetic sequencing, and we have developed new technologies for highly effective vaccines as well as effective therapeutics to treat a novel virus,” he added.
Dr.Tang said that although the most recent COVID-19 variant remains a concern as Omicron has proven to be highly transmissible and able to evade immunity from vaccination and previous infection, however, we are also extremely fortunate that Omicron has been less severe than previous variants.
“The high level of vaccine protection in Qatar as booster shots targeted higher risk individuals and those with waning immunity, along with population-level immunity acquired from previous waves of COVID-19 infection, have all contributed to lessening the clinical severity of Omicron,” he said.
“However, we cannot be dismissive of the overall impact of this Omicron wave and we all still need to play our part in reducing our own risk of infection, and for those who have been infected, to reduce the risk of transmission to others,” he added.
Although the chance of severe disease from Omicron is less for most people who are vaccinated, there is still a significant risk to those who are unvaccinated, especially if they are elderly or suffer from other chronic diseases.
The high transmissibility of the Omicron variant increases its probability of reaching the people who have so far been able to avoid COVID-19 or remain unvaccinated, and especially those who are most vulnerable to severe COVID-19.
“All of our incremental individual efforts to reduce COVID-19 transmission help in reducing the risk to those who are most vulnerable. This means wearing face masks, washing our hands, reducing our risk from large indoor gatherings and getting our booster shots of COVID-19 vaccine. This also means staying home when we are sick, whether you have been tested for COVID-19 at a designated clinic or self-tested at home, and even whether it is due to COVID-19 or not,” said Dr.Tang.
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