Dangerous to assume Omicron last variant: WHO exec

MANILA – The World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines warned against the “dangerous” assumption that Omicron would bring the world to the pandemic endgame as new variants could still emerge.

“We have a lot of uncertainties about the future evolution of this pandemic. It is very dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame,” Dr. Rajendra Yadav, acting WHO Philippines representative, said in a Laging Handa briefing.

“New variants could emerge and these new variants could evade our countermeasures, may even become fully resistance to the current vaccines which will necessitate vaccine adaptations,” he added.

While vaccine supplies have risen across the world, some countries still have low vaccination coverage and high transmission of the virus, which he said could lead to new variants.

In Africa, for instance, Yadav said some countries continue to struggle with their rollouts, leaving only 11 percent of the African population fully vaccinated.

“[L]ess vaccination means more transmission there, and more transmission means we have high chances of new variants emerging there. But then, this can cross over to any country. What happens in other countries affects the Philippines too, because we cannot virus-proof our international borders,” he said.

“So if other countries have low vaccination coverage and high transmission of the virus, yes, we expect that we could have new variants in the coming weeks or months. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen,” he added.

Yadav said there had been a “relatively low number of deaths” during the recent Omicron surge in the Philippines and nationally, the health care utilization rate is “quite stable”. Despite this, the public and the government must remain vigilant.

“So for now we can say worst is over but that’s only for now because we do not know how long this current favorable situation will last. We need to hope for the best but remain prepared for the worst,” he said. (PNA)