Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in the year 2020, several variants of the coronavirus have been reported and are under investigation. However, with the rise of each new variant, few questions get raised – How fatal is the virus? Will the COVID-19 vaccination provide enough protection? Will the vaccine work against the new variant? And are there any new guidelines or precautions that need to be followed?
Ziqitza, one of the country’s leading healthcare organisations explains that typically variants of a virus occur, when the virus’ genes changes or undergoes mutation. Ziqitza Healthcare further explains that RNA viruses such as Coronavirus generally evolve and change. Various geographies play a crucial role resulting in genetically distinct variants. As a matter of fact, mutations in viruses is a common phenomenon and all RNA viruses mutate over time, for example, the flu virus mutates more than often which is why physicians recommend getting a flu shot every year.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified the COVID-19 virus into three broad categories:
- Variant of interest: This refers to coronavirus variants which in comparison to the earlier variants of the virus have greater transmissibility ratio, can evade diagnostic testing and immunity barriers, and are also more severe.
- Variant of concern: These are variants that are capable of causing breakthrough infections. They are observed to be more infectious, and can cause re-infections in people who were previously infected or who are vaccinated. Similar to variants of interest, these variants can also evade diagnostic testing and are severe in nature. Examples of variants of concern are alpha, beta, gamma, delta and omicron.
- Variant of high consequence: These variants are the ones which cannot be prevented by the vaccines, the vaccines do not offer protection against them. At present, there are no variants of high consequence of coronavirus.
Can the COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots offer protection against new variants?
Ziqitza Healthcare Ltd points out scientific evidence and stresses that some vaccine driven immune systems might prove less protective against some of the variants. People who stand eligible for booster shots must go ahead and obtain the COVID-19 booster shots for increased protection against the coronavirus variants. Ziqitza Rajasthan agrees with Ziqitza Limited advice and further suggests that, part of the population that is inoculated must continue following COVID-19 guidelines and protocols as laid down by the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and keep an eye open for any new guidelines. People must continue following safety protocols such as hand sanitization, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, and physical distancing.
The Omicron variant: What is its severity?
ZHL Rajasthan states that the omicron variant emerged in November 2021 and was termed as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization. The omicron variant has been responsible for the largest surge in COVID-19 positive cases since the year 2019. Positive cases were largely reported from areas from where the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted and relaxations were given. Ziqitza Limited Rajasthan further elaborates that the Omicron variant had a large number of mutations and as a matter of concern almost all of these mutations appeared at similar time.
The efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines over Omicron variant
Ziqitza HealthCare Limited affirms that being fully vaccinated and inoculating with booster shots after eligible safeguards and protects you against the coronavirus variants. Although there might be breakthrough infections or cases of re-infections, the severity would be manageable and can be controlled.
How safe are children? Can new variants affect children more than other strains?
The widespread infection during the Delta and Omicron surge witnessed an increased number of positive cases in children as well. However, there is no scientific evidence that suggests the existence of a variant that is particularly dangerous for children. India has begun vaccination for children, and it is suggested to get them vaccinated, as soon as it is their turn.
Is the pandemic over? Will there be more variants?
No, the coronavirus pandemic is not over yet. The virus will continue to mutate till the time it continues to spread among the population. Almost every week new mutations are discovered.
One can only hope that there are no fatal mutations and the pandemic gets over as soon as possible. However, the future is uncertain and the best we can do is to continue following COVID-19 guidelines and protocols, even in the areas with relaxations. Our safety is in our hands.