Omicron variant is 'still a killer,' says OCTA fellow | Inquirer News

Omicron variant is ‘still a killer,’ says OCTA fellow

/ 06:53 PM January 07, 2022
Philippines ‘more ready’ to face Omicron variant, says DOH

Syringes with needles are seen in front of a displayed stock graph and words “Omicron SARS-CoV-2” in this illustration taken, Nov. 27, 2021. (REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

MANILA, Philippines — Don’t underestimate the Omicron, a fellow of Octa Research said on Friday, clarifying that the variant believed to be driving the surge of coronavirus cases in the country is “still a killer,” despite it being milder than the Delta variant that swept the country last year.

This would come from Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, a Filipino-American priest who is also a molecular biologist, the same person who earlier remarked that the variant may be “the beginning of the end” of the pandemic while still reminding the public to be cautious.

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“Even though Omicron could help sustain population immunity, Omicron—even though it is milder than Delta—is still a killer,” said Austriaco during the Laging Handa briefing.

“So it’s important that every single one of our kababayans still get vaccinated and boosted because it might help the country as a whole, it might be a blessing in disguise at the end of the surge that we replace a deadly variant like Delta with Omicron,” he added.

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“But for individual people, it will still kill and we do not want individual people to die because they were not vaccinated or boosted against COVID-19,” he further said.

Earlier, Austriaco said in a forum that the Omicron variant may act as a “natural vaccine,” since those who survive Omicron infection will get antibodies that will protect them “not only against Omicron but against the Delta, Gamma, Beta, Alpha, and D614G” variants.

According to him, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 may be “the beginning of the end” of the pandemic.

The OCTA fellow stood by this during Friday’s briefing, citing the 1918 flu pandemic.

“This is actually not something new. If you look at the pandemic of 1918, the flu pandemic of 1918 – the flu pandemic of 1918 begun to end when the flu virus, H1N1 became weaker. And one of the reasons why I pointed out the other day that Omicron is a good sign that we are at the beginning of the end is that it (Omicron) is for the first time a weaker variant,” Austriaco said.

He added that there are “numerous scientists in the United States who believe the same thing.”

“That a milder variant of COVID-19 would better prepare the population for future variants po. And this combined with the increasing numbers of vaccinations and booster shots, the availability of the antivirals,” he said.

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He further said that two weeks ago, a report from the Walter Reed Medical Hospital in the United States, a military hospital, that it is in the process of developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine.

“This is a vaccine that will be effective against all variants of COVID-19 po,” he added. “So with all these developments, I really do believe that we are at the beginning at the end of the pandemic.”

Health experts from the government, however, viewed this with a grain of salt, citing the unpredictability of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary and spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire reminded the public to not be complacent and not willingly get themselves infected because of such a statement.

For his part, Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the DOH Technical Advisory Group and director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the National Institutes of Health at the University of the Philippines – Manila, insisted that Omicron is a variant of a virus and not a vaccine.

Salvana also mentioned the latest statement from the World Health Organization that the infection caused by the Omicron variant should not be dismissed as mild.

He noted that although there is less chance for vaccinated people to have the severe form of COVID-19, other Filipinos remain unvaccinated against the virus.

On Friday, the Philippines recorded 21,819 additional COVID-19 cases on Friday, the highest single-day increase since September 18 last year.

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TAGS: Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, OCTA Research, Omicron variant
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