Covid-19: Sinopharm, Sinovac jabs can protect against severe hospitalisation and death, WHO official says

Raising global vaccine rates will reduce Omicron's impact



Reuters
Reuters

By Reuters

Published: Tue 4 Jan 2022, 6:35 PM

Last updated: Wed 5 Jan 2022, 8:01 AM

More evidence is emerging that the Omicron coronavirus variant is affecting the upper respiratory tract, causing milder symptoms than previous variants and resulting in a "decoupling" in some places between soaring case numbers and low death rates, while jabs like Sinopharm and Sinovac can protection against severe hospitalisation, a World Health Organisation official said on Tuesday.

"We are seeing more and more studies pointing out that Omicron is infecting the upper part of the body. Unlike other ones, the lungs who would be causing severe pneumonia," WHO Incident Manager Abdi Mahamud told Geneva-based journalists.

"It can be a good news, but we really require more studies to prove that."

While Omicron seemed to be slipping past antibodies, evidence was emerging that Covid-19 vaccines still provided some protection, by eliciting a second pillar of the immune response from T-cells, Mahamud said.

Sinopharm, Sinovac offer protection

"Our prediction is protection against severe hospitalisation and death (from Omicron) will be maintained," he said, adding that this also applied to vaccines developed by Sinopharm and Sinovac that are used in China, where Omicron cases remain very low.

"The challenge has not been the vaccine but the vaccination and reaching those vulnerable populations."

Asked about whether an Omicron-specific vaccine was needed, Mahamud said it was too early to say but voiced doubts and stressed that the decision required global coordination and should not be left to manufacturers to decide alone.

"You may go ahead with Omicron and put all your eggs in that basket and a new variant that is more transmissible or more immune-evasive may appear," he said, adding that a WHO technical group had held recent meetings on vaccine composition.

The best way to reduce the impact of the variant would be to meet the WHO's goal of vaccinating 70% of the population in each country by July, rather than offer third and fourth doses in some countries, he said.

As case numbers due to Omicron have soared, some countries, including the United States have cut down isolation or quarantine periods in a bid to allow asymptomatic people to return to work or school.

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Mahamud said that leaders should decide based on the strength of the local epidemic, saying Western countries with very high case numbers might consider trimming isolation periods to keep basic services functioning.

However, places that have largely shut it out would do better to maintain the full 14-day quarantine period.

"If your numbers are very small, you better be invested in keeping that number very, very low."


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