All that is now known about the Omicron variant points to a tightening of restrictions now rather than later if we are to avoid an increase in infections and hospitalization and death. A virologist, Tom Peacock of Imperial College London, has described Omicron as a “vaccine-dodging and fast -spreading ” variant.
Peacock’s findings have been supported by work done at the University KwaZulu-Natal, led by a research team headed by Dr. Alex Sigel.
Dr. Sigel’s team confirmed that Omicron is able to escape antibodies from vaccines and past infection. The results of other research in South Africa also showed that the variant spreads like wildfire, doubling every two to three days.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), a government agency responsible since April 2021 for the UK’s public health protection and infectious disease capability, has also warned that two doses of the Covid vaccine did little to prevent symptomatic infection from Omicron. However, a booster is likely to provide 70% protection. Early findings suggest a booster provides 80-86% protection against hospitalization from Omicron. Hospitalization for vaccinated people has been concluded to be four times higher with Omicron.
With the low level of vaccine uptake in Saint Lucia (about 22%), the significantly increased level of tourists from the UK and the US, any slackening of protocols during this Christmas holiday season is sure to result in higher levels of infections and hospitalization. The scientific evidence is clear; there should be a tightening up on restrictions to avoid overwhelming the health care system come the later part of January 2022.
The general advice in countries where Omicron is spreading like wildfire is for those already vaccinated to get a booster to avert hospitalization or worse: death.