By Saumu Juma

The detection of the Omicron variant in South Africa has resulted in tension globally as its intensity compared to the Delta variant which was termed deadly remains unknown. In order to contain the spread of the variant, scientists are doing research and giving recommendations.

According to Prof.  Walter Jaoko, an expert in Medical Microbiology and Tropical Medicine at the University of Nairobi, there are many measures that have to be taken by different stakeholders and the public in general to control the variant.

Speaking at an African Science Media Center (AfriSMC) virtual press briefing, he said: “Countries should continue to enhance surveillance and keep on sequencing any new infection that they have so that we can better understand its circulation.”

The professor noted that it is important to follow up on any new development because the variant is likely to mutate and lead to adverse effects when there’s little control.

While recommending South Africa for reporting the new variant, Prof. Jaoko urged countries to monitor the progress of Omicron and report to the WHO incase of any new development.

“Each country should continue to do investigations and laboratory assessments to improve the understanding and impact of any new variant, not just Omicron”, he said.

Prof. Jaoko urged countries to continue with vaccination campaigns to reduce the number of severe cases and deaths being reported, adding that so far, the variant is not seen to be resistant to vaccination but if they find such evidence, they will make recommendations for people to receive booster doses to generate the same immune responses but in a higher quantity.

“A booster dose of the current vaccine that we have could be one way of addressing it in the event that we find they have a diminished response”, he said.

The professor also advised the vaccine manufacturers to add an additional immunogen to the vaccines to ensure that they will offer more protection during uptake.

“They should design an immunogen that when given, would stimulate antibodies that would target that part of the variant that has mutated. That is what Pfizer and Moderna are already doing by observing the change in the spike protein and the variant to produce antibodies for the change,” Prof. Jaoko said.

The professor also urged people to get vaccinated because currently in South Africa, most people who are being hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated and majority are young people.