NEWS

Alarm over high risk posed by Omicron

Health authorities insist that despite possible efficacy impact, vaccines still a shield of protection

alarm-over-high-risk-posed-by-omicron

As the World Health Organization warned on Monday of the high risk posed globally by the Omicron variant, Greek health authorities insisted that despite the possible impact on their efficacy, vaccines remain the best defense.

“Vaccination, despite the possible reduction in effectiveness [due to the Omicron mutation], is still a shield of protection,” stressed the president of the National Vaccination Committee, Maria Theodoridou.

“There is a growing fear that vaccines may be ineffective,” she said, noting that according to the WHO, infections are also expected among vaccinated people, but “the magnitude of the problem is expected to be small,” she said.

“We are experiencing a situation that was expected and can be addressed with the supply of vaccines in countries with low vaccination coverage,” she said, adding that the difference with Omicron “is the large number of mutations that appear in the gene of the spike protein, which the virus uses to invade the body.”

“It is not known at this stage how contagious the virus is but it is possible that it is more contagious,” she noted, while clarifying that it is still not known if this new variant causes a more serious disease.

At the same time the pressure remains high on the National Health System, as 657 patients remained intubated Monday ICUs, a further increase from Sunday’s six-and-a-half-month high. Health authorities also announced 6,677 new cases and 104 deaths over the preceding 24 hours. The majority of patients (526 or 80.06%) are either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated, with 131 (19.94%) being fully vaccinated.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Greece since the start of the pandemic has reached 931,183, with a total of 18,067 deaths over the same period.

Meanwhile, EU member-states are discussing the possibility of a teleconference to coordinate measures to tackle the Omicron variant. According to a top European source, the relevant consultations have started and the teleconference will probably take place either on Friday or at the beginning of next week.

Kathimerini understands that the key issues that will be raised will be the acceleration of EU aid, the avoidance of unilateral action on travel within the Schengen area, and the increase in vaccine donations to the developing world.