Africa urged to Ramp up Vaccination Efforts amid Omicron Fear

ADDIS ABABA – Africa CDC has urged African countries to continue encouraging their citizens to get Covid-19 vaccinations amid concerns of the new Omicron variant.

“There’s no need to panic about the new Omicron variant because we have the tools to fight against COVID-19 and all the different variants,” said Dr John Nkengasong, the Director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

“Vaccines are available and continue to flow around the continent steadily, and we also encourage the public to get vaccinated against the virus because it is the only way to protect yourself.”

‘We are more prepared’

About 57 countries across the world have so far reported Omicron cases and 10 of them are in the continent.

Africa CDC is particularly concerned about the southern part of Africa most. However, Dr Nkengasong said, the situation “can and will be managed”.

“We are more prepared to deal with the new wave, and we have deployed respondents, commodities, and supply materials that are necessary to fight against the new wave and stop it from spreading,” he said.

Dr Nkengasong’s comments came amid rising concerns among health experts, scientists, and the world about the new iteration of the SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) known as the Omicron variant.

Since the outbreak in 2019, Coronavirus has kept evolving into different versions, including the Delta, Novel, Gamma, and Alpha, with the latest, the Omicron variant, being identified as a variant of concern by the WHO.

For much of the past two years of the pandemic, global leaders and governments have adopted different measures, including travel restrictions and lockdowns, as a way of controlling the spread of COVID-19 among their populations.

However, Dr. Nkengasong believes that travel restrictions have never stopped the variants from spreading.

Less severe

A preliminary study from South Africa indicate the omicron variant may result in less sickening illness than other coronavirus variants.

Data which looked at hospitalizations in the country between 14 Nov and 4 Dec found that ICU occupancy was only 6.3 %.

This figure is very low compared with the same period when the country was facing the peak linked to the Delta variant in July, according to the WHO.

Data from the same two-week period from one of the health districts most impacted by Omicron found that out of more than 1200 admissions, 98 were receiving supplemental oxygen and only four were on ventilation.

The UN agency, however, said the data is very preliminary while most of the people admitted to the health facilities were under the age of 40.