WHO chief scientist calls not to spread panic over Omicron strain

20:42, 03 December 2021
WHO chief scientist calls not to spread panic over Omicron strain Photo: Yann/

Meanwhile, the Organization’s emergencies director has unveiled that it remains uncertain whether vaccines will require modifications to be able to fight the COVID variant that recently emerged in South Africa.

Chief scientist for the World Health Organization Soumya Swaminathan appealed on Friday to people all around the world not to panic over the new COVID variant dubbed omicron, highlighting that the current situation differs a lot from that of last year.

Delivering a speech at Reuters Next online press conference, the Indian doctor said it was not sure if omicron could beat Delta and become the most dangerous COVID strain. However, she referred to South Africa’s data showing that the number of new cases has multiplied in the country and did not rule the possibility out.

“Delta accounts for 99% of infections around the world. This variant would have to be more transmissible to out-compete and become dominant worldwide. It is possible, but it's not possible to predict."

At the same conference, emergencies director Mike Ryan said that for the moment there was no need to modify existing vaccines, stressing that proper and equitable distribution of jabs properly remained the priority of the WHO.

"Right now, we have highly effective vaccines that are working. We need to focus on getting people most at risk vaccinated.”

However, WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier urged vaccine producers to be ready to adjust.

The Omicron variant was detected for the first time last week and is believed to be highly transmissible. Many countries in the world have already canceled flights from South Africa and imposed new traveling restrictions.