The Russian President downplayed the possible consequences of the new variant on Tuesday, which has now spread across the world after first being detected in South Africa. He claimed that the fears of a deadly variant, which is highly mutated and has forced the WHO to raise the alarm, might be “premature”. Mr Putin said: “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
“They say it’s not that virulent. Some specialists even call it a live vaccine.”
Live vaccines include a weakened form of the virus that causes a disease to trigger an immune response that will generate protective antibodies while not being strong enough to make you ill.
Diseases like measles mumps and rubella (MMR) and yellow fever vaccines both include attenuated virus, meaning it does not replicate well.
Early evidence from South Africa has indicated that Pmicron might result in a milder form of COVID-19 than other variants.
Researchers conducted a study of 166 patients in hospitals in the Tshwane district of Gauteng province, right at the epicentre of the Omicron outbreak.
Results showed that patients are mainly younger than those hospitalised in the first and second waves of the pandemic, which means they are less like to come down with a severe case and need ventilation.
Eleanor Riley, a professor of infectious disease immunology at the University of Edinburgh, said that letting Omicron spread uncontrolled could prove risky.
Out of the 50 mutations detected in Omicron, 32 of them are in the spike protein – which the current batch of preferred vaccines targets to boost the body’s immune system.
Prof Riley told The Telegraph: “He [Mr Putin] might be right if it really is very very mild.
“But letting it spread in an unconstrained manner is not a risk any of us should take given the information we have currently.”
She also said that if the level of protection offered by vaccines is weakened because of the Omicron variant, then she said that “things will get a lot worse before they get better”.
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Dr Hans Kluge told a press briefing on Tuesday: “As surveillance capacity and genomic sequencing is going to be scaled up more and more countries surely will report on cases of omicron.”
Dr Kluge also said there is still a lot to be uncovered about the new variant, which we know little about.
He said: “It has yet to be seen how and whether the latest Covid-19 variant of concern, omicron, will be more transmissible and more severe.”