Omicron, Fourth Wave and the Future - Battling COVID-19 in 2022

The Fourth Wave - Story So Far

The fourth wave of COVID-19 has been moving through South Africa at a faster rate than the previous waves. Early in December, an Omicron-driven surge of cases prompted scientists in the United States and throughout the world to mobilise to answer important questions about the new strain. The state reported a month later that the country appeared to have passed the height of the latest spike.

According to Professor Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa, the country is currently nearing the end of the fourth wave.

The Omicron variant has been responsible for the vast majority of cases in recent weeks, with genomic sequencing results from South Africa’s Network for Genomic Surveillance showing that 83.5 percent and 98.7 percent of sequenced Covid-19 samples were Omicron in November and December 2021, respectively.

According to Professor Glenda Gray, president and CEO of the South African Medical Research Council, the “uncoupling or delinkage” between cases, deaths, and hospital admissions in South Africa has been a defining feature of the fourth wave.

This tendency was documented in a Lancet preprint study published on December 29, 2021, which looked at patients hospitalised to Gauteng hospitals during the fourth wave. The researchers looked at the first four weeks of waves two, three, and four in Gauteng, which were dominated by the Beta, Delta, and Omicron variations.

A less powerful wave?

According to Professor Shabir Madhi, dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and professor of vaccinology at the University of the Witwatersrand, a possible explanation for the reduced frequency of serious sickness and deaths during the Omicron wave in South Africa is the country’s better level of population immunity compared to previous waves.

According to Madhi, as a result, Omicron may be less likely to manifest with pneumonia or a lung infection and more likely to manifest with upper airway symptoms.

Even if their symptoms are modest, people over the age of 50, who are overweight, or who have comorbidities should see a doctor if they contract COVID-19.

Vaccination - Booster Dose Necessary?

According to research, the majority of patients who end up in the hospital as a result of COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

While immunisation will not prevent you from catching Omicron, doctors have discovered that the severity of the symptoms changes between vaccinated and unprotected people.

On December 14, 2021, Discovery Health presented preliminary data from the first three weeks of the Omicron-driven wave in South Africa, revealing that the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech immunization gives 70% protection against severe COVID-19 complications that result in hospitalization, and 33% protection against Covid-19 infection.

Meanwhile, preliminary findings from the South African Phase 3b Sisonke research, which will be released by Johnson & Johnson on December 30, 2021, reveal that the J&J booster shot had an 85% success rate in preventing COVID-19-related hospitalization.

The Journey Ahead - What to Keep in Mind?

The limitations put in place to handle the pandemic must be reconsidered.

However, relying on immunizations and booster doses alone will not suffice, as people will become less cooperative with booster shot programs over time. These approaches must be used in conjunction with common sense and non-pharmaceutical therapies.

Top health specialists have not ruled out the likelihood of Omicron reinfection in humans, refocusing attention on COVID-appropriate behavior and vaccination in response to its spread and mortality.

Omicron has quickly surpassed other variants to become the main SARS-CoV-2 strain in several places throughout the world. Two new investigations reveal that the variant has succeeded despite viral levels in the body being equivalent to — or lower than — those of its primary competitor, the Delta variant 1,2.

The findings indicate that Omicron’s hyper-transmissibility is not due to the release of enormous amounts of virus by afflicted people. According to Emily Bruce, a virologist at the University of Vermont in Burlington, the clearest explanation for its lightning-fast dissemination is its capacity to bypass SARS-CoV-2 protection conferred by either vaccination or previous infection.

Significant load

Previous studies have suggested that Delta-variant infections cause a larger ‘viral load,’ or the amount of virus in an infected person, when compared to infections earlier in the pandemic. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which provides an indication of the amount of viral RNA in the body, is frequently used to determine this.

Yonatan Grad, an infectious-disease specialist at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and his co-authors used data from the National Basketball Association, the organisation responsible for professional basketball in North America, to examine the viral loads associated with the ever-changing cast of SARS-CoV-2 variations. The league tests its players and personnel for COVID-19 on a regular basis.

The researchers looked at the PCR results of the nose and throat swabs collected from infected people and discovered that those with Delta had a little greater peak viral load than those with Omicron. 

The India Story

The proportion of Covid fatalities among active cases during the current surge is much lower than during the previous second wave, thanks to widespread vaccination coverage, according to the Centre, highlighting the importance of immunizations in preventing serious illness and death from Covid-19.

Using key indices from the second and third Covid-19 surges, officials found that on January 20, when the overall active caseload was 19.2 lakh and 72% of adults were fully vaccinated, an average of 380 deaths (7-day moving average) were recorded, compared to an average of 3,059 deaths on April 30 when active cases were 31.7 lakh and just 2% of people were fully vaccinated.

According to Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, wider vaccination coverage during the current spike has benefited mild illness, and although having over 3 lakh daily cases, the active caseload and deaths are currently lower when compared to the second wave.

One Question

Everyone is wondering when this will all come to an end. Is it going to end in 2022? Pandemics are usually cyclical in character, with waves of death. Experts expect that more COVID rounds and new varieties will be released and that boosters and surges will continue until 2022, when the entire planet will be vaccinated.

Building a robust public health and healthcare system that can deal with the aftermath of COVID should be a top priority. According to India’s excess death predictions for 2021, a considerable number of lives were lost in the previous two years due to reasons other than COVID. Nobody can deny that everyone is affected by “long-COVID” in some way. Accepting the population’s high levels of anxiety and despair will be a significant step forward for our civilization.

Maintain Regular Health Check-Ups

Routine check-ups assist in the early detection of potential health problems, and early diagnosis provides the best chance of overcoming the condition without implications. In cases of life-threatening diseases such as cancer, early detection can be the difference between a complete cure and a life-long fight.

At Galaxy, our state-of-the-art clinical laboratories can assist in discovering a wide range of illnesses that can be cured fully or at least slowed down with the use of modern diagnostics and technology.

Come, let’s move towards wellness!