What does Omicron mean for the majority vaccinated in Canada? – .

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What does Omicron mean for the majority vaccinated in Canada? – .


And what does the new COVID-19 variant mean for the unvaccinated, unvaccinated, and those who have received a booster?

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News of the Omicron variant has many Canadians dreading another lockdown, two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Authorities have remained on high alert in Canada since confirming at least seven cases of the variant on Tuesday, but the first data from South Africa, which first signaled the development of the variant, suggests that it mainly targeted the unvaccinated.

So what does the Omicron variant mean for a Canadian population, the majority of which are vaccinated?

It is too early to say for sure, but it is possible that a highly vaccinated population could reduce the transmissibility of the variant and the likelihood of serious illness and increased hospitalizations, said infectious disease physician Dr Sumon Chakrabarti. at Trillium Hospital.

“It’s important to note that we can’t draw any solid conclusions about anything (yet),” Chakrabarti stressed.

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Omicron was first reported – but not necessarily native – in South Africa last week and, on November 26, was named as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

The concern, scientists say, is the total of 32 mutations found on its spike protein – the most recorded to date in a variant of COVID-19. Some of these mutations, experts say, show similarities to those found in earlier variants, associated with higher transmissibility and a higher likelihood of vaccine breakout.

It will be a few more weeks before WHO officials can say how pathogenic the virus is, but, in the meantime, they have warned that it could cause a “high global risk of outbreaks of infection.”

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More than 20 countries – UK, Netherlands, Israel, Botswana, Sweden and Japan, to name a few – have confirmed cases of Omicron, with some infections found in patients previously vaccinated against the COVID-19.

DOUBLE VACCINATED

Thanks to a rigorous rollout of vaccination over the past month, more than 78 percent of Canadians are vaccinated, only a minority of whom are partially vaccinated. Which could, to a certain extent, be hopeful news for Canadians.

While it’s difficult to be certain, the variant is unlikely to “completely negate the protection we get from vaccines,” said Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease expert in the University’s Department of Medicine. Dalhousie.

Although the variant has been shown to escape the immune barriers protecting the body against infection, early observational data in South Africa seems to show that vaccines still offer some level of protection and that double-dose vaccines do not. have so far presented only mild symptoms.

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Normally, when a body develops an immune response to a virus, either naturally or with the help of a vaccine, it means creating a multitude of antibodies and T cells that focus their attacks on different regions of the protein. tip of the virus. Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system to neutralize a virus by blocking its ability to invade a cell, while T lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, kill infected cells and coordinate attacks.

Each COVID-19 vaccine targets the virus spike protein – the component that helps the virus enter a human cell – the most vital part of which is the receptor binding domain, a region on the protein that allows the virus to attach itself to the human cell before invading it.

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Of the 32 mutations found in Omicron’s spike protein, the receptor binding domain is one of them, which means that antibodies targeting that specific area may have a harder time repelling the virus from the selected cell.

But they could still be successful in their attacks against other regions of the spike protein that “aren’t as likely” to have mutated so much and which would still guarantee the vaccine some success against the variant, Barrett explained.

So, rather than no protection at all, the vaccine’s immunity can only be diminished by mutations, but still effective, Barrett said.

It’s like using a dimmer to turn on the lights in a room: “If you’re immune, the dimmer will turn the light on,” she said. “The light may be a little dimmer, but it won’t necessarily go away completely. “

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ONE DOSE

Chakrabarti said that it might not make a significant difference whether you received one or two doses, as it would take some time to see if there is a difference in the immunity one gets from one. single or double dose against Omicron.

“(But) I don’t think the difference will be huge,” he said.

Earlier this summer, long waits between the first and second vaccines, due to vaccine shortages, were found to inadvertently lengthen the immune response, boosting the vaccine’s overall protection against the virus and its variants. “(The single dose of vaccine) will certainly still provide some degree of protection,” he said.

NOT VACCINATED

The quarter of Canadians who are not vaccinated, however, may be another story.

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“It depends on their degree of exposure to COVID-19,” said Chakrabarti. “But we also don’t know if you were naturally infected, will that protection be less?” “

The first reports, he said, seem to indicate a range of symptoms ranging from milder muscle pain, mild fever to a terrible cough and shortness of breath in intensive care, the severity of which depends on the immunization status of a patient. anybody.

“The only thing to remember is that the symptoms of the virus are like any other virus,” he said. “And just generally, if you’re vaccinated you’re less likely to have symptoms if you’re exposed. “

The high vaccination rate in Canada, he added, would not only potentially reduce the symptoms of the virus, but also reduce the community spread of the variant and, most importantly, prevent people from going to the hospital.

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“It is difficult for the virus to spread very widely,” Chakrabarti said. “Because there are so many people who are immune to it, they can still show symptoms, but you don’t suddenly see an explosion of people in the hospital. And that is really our main concern: preventing people from going to the hospital.

BOOSTER STROKE

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told the Financial Times on Tuesday that he believed there could be a “significant drop” in the effectiveness of the vaccine against the virus, compared to that of Delta. “I don’t know how much because we have to wait for the data. But all the scientists I spoke to. . . are like ‘this is not going to be good,’ ”Bancel said.

Global experts have already urged people to get vaccinated in hopes of doubling protection against the virus.

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“I strongly suggest that you get a boost now and not wait for the next iteration, which we might not even need,” White House chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci told Monday at ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America”, adding that he would “not recommend at all” to wait.

“We’ll know pretty quickly if there are higher levels of antibodies against the original vaccine that we used, whether or not that may spill over into protection against that.” “

But, if you’ve ever been given a double dose, Barrett said she doubts a third booster could do any better, especially when it’s still unclear how the virus would respond to the vaccine.

“There are good reasons to boost people with waning immunity from what we previously knew, and it’s good for Delta,” she said, “but to be clear, we don’t know. not that strengthening the same vaccine is going to help us here against Omicron.

Instead, she advocated for effective public health measures to limit the spread of the variant, more than she has already done. “We really can’t forget about the other measurements, the masking, the testing, we just can’t do it,” she said. “We still have a large proportion of people hanging out together, namely children under 11 who have not yet been vaccinated. So it’s a bit early for us to let everything take over until we know more about Omicron.

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