Virus experts warns Thailand could lose race against super-infectious Omicron


Expert virologist Dr Yong Poovorawan has warned that Thailand could lose the race to administer enough booster shots to protect its population from Omicron.

The new variant is more contagious and more resistant to vaccines than previous Covid-19 strains, confirmed Dr Yong in a Facebook post, citing data in the month since the new variant emerged.

Two jabs were not enough to protect against Omicron and a booster was needed to reduce severity of the disease, he added.

However, the good news is that Omicron causes less severe disease than other variants, according to data from South Africa, the UK, and Denmark.

While cases are rising fast, the number of Omicron patients being hospitalised is only one-third that of Delta cases. The number of Omicron fatalities is also significantly fewer than Delta fatalities.

Yong said that the Omicron variant likely affects the upper part of the respiratory system more than the lungs. Tests for Omicron should focus on saliva rather than nasal mucus, he added.

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Yong said the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly in North America and Europe, where mostly mRNA vaccines have been administered.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Omicron is quickly becoming the dominant variant in countries all around the globe. However, fatalities have dipped sharply compared to virus waves last year.

Yong noted that Omicron’s rapid spread in North America and Europe is coinciding with winter and the annual flu season. However, the new variant is also spreading quickly in summertime Australia. Meanwhile, other southern hemisphere countries including Chile and Indonesia have seen relatively few cases, suggesting that weather is not a significant factor, Yong said.

He warned that Thailand must learn from other countries and apply effective prevention measures, adding that the country might not be able to administer as much vaccine as developed nations.