Omicron variant of COVID-19

Could the Omicron coronavirus variant act as a “natural vaccine” and be the “beginning of an end” of the COVID-19 pandemic? The Department of Health (DOH) and some local medical experts disapproved of this notion.

DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire pointed out that Omicron is a virus and not a vaccine. She stressed that there is no room for complacency at this point even if initial studies suggest that this new coronavirus variant only causes mild symptoms.

“We must not be complacent even if the said variant only manifests mild symptoms. The World Health Organization (WHO) pronounced that the Omicron variant is still a virus and not a ‘natural’ vaccine,’” she said.

“Mild symptoms are still manifestations of the infection and are still a way of transmission. The more cases we have, the increase of hospital admissions is more possible,” she added.

She also noted that the “more transmission, the more the virus can mutate and replicate.”

Vegeire said that the current COVID-19 vaccines are still considered the “best defense” against the illness as these lower the chances of getting severe or critical symptoms.

“While we recognize natural immunity, the DOH emphasizes the importance of vaccine-induced immunity. Since not all can acquire natural immunity, it is still recommended to get your vaccines as it is still the best tool to protect ourselves from the virus, and prevent hospitalization,” the DOH spokesperson said.

Vaccines also should be coupled with strict adherence to minimum public health standards. “By properly following these protocols, we help in mitigating the pandemic,” she said.

Vergeire made the statement in response to the claims of OCTA Research Group fellow and molecular biologist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco.

In a forum hosted by Go Negosyo last Wednesday, Austriaco said that “Omicron actually acts as another booster, a natural vaccine,” citing data that was published recently.

Those who survived from Omicron infection will get “antibodies” that can protect them “not only against Omicron but against the Delta, Gamma, Beta, Alpha, and the D614G” coronavirus variants, said Austriaco.

“We have to realize that Omicron is the beginning of an end of the pandemic because Omicron is going to provide the kind of population immunity that should stabilize our societies and should allow us to reopen after Omicron has begun,” he said.

“This is the hope and prayer, Omicron is actually a blessing, it will be hard for one month but afterwards, it should be a blessing because it should provide the population protection that we need everywhere,” he added.

COVID-19 continues to surprise the world

One thing is clear right now—the information about the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to evolve, said infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Salvana, a member of the DOH-Technical Advisory Group (TAG).

“If there is one thing constant about COVID-19 and the SARS CoV-2 virus is that it has surprised us time and again,” he said.

“Lahat po ng dalubhasa, mahirap ho talagang i-predict— so huwag po tayong magiging complacent at bakuna lang po tayo (All the experts, it’s really hard to predict— so let’s not be complacent and let’s get vaccinated) and continue to use our minimum health standards,” he added.

Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, who is also a DOH-TAG member, also supported the statement of Salvana.

“Siyempre gusto natin na ito na ‘yung pinakahuli, na wala nang susunod pang ibang variant. Unfortunately, hindi pa natin masasabi with certainty na ito na nga ang katapusan ng COVID (Of course, we want this to be the last— that no other variants will emerge. Unfortunately, we cannot say with certainty that this is the end of COVID),” she said.

“Mas maganda pa ring maging maingat, huwag sadyaing magpahawa on the assumption na hindi na mahahawaan ulit ng iba pa at ipagpatuloy ang pag-iingat (It’s still better to be careful, don’t intentionally get infected on the assumption that you will not get infected again. Continue to be careful),” she added.


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Source: Manila Bulletin (