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Tuesday May 17th, 2022

Sri Lanka warned to get vaccines, be cautions as new variant found

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka health officials are urging the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible including the booster dose at the correct time, with a highly mutated variant being identified in the world causing concerns.

“As the new variant was discovered Sri Lanka, like any other country took the preventing measures by banning the flights from the countries that shows the spreading of the new variant,” Chandima Jeewadara, Director, Molecular and Cell Biology Unit of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, said.

“However, no country has been successful in preventing the variants coming in to the country. In Sri Lanka also we might identify the variant in the future. Our aim is to slow down it as much as we can.”

The B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to WHO from South Africa on 24 November 2021.

The epidemiological situation in South Africa has been characterized by three distinct peaks in reported cases, the latest of which was predominantly the Delta variant.

In recent weeks, infections have increased steeply, coinciding with the detection of B.1.1.529 variant.

The first known confirmed B.1.1.529 infection was from a specimen collected on 9 November 2021.

This variant has a large number of mutations.

Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, compared to other variants of concern. The number of cases of this variant appears to be increasing in almost all provinces in South Africa, reports said.

Several labs have indicated that for one widely used PCR test, one of the three target genes is not detected (called S gene dropout or S gene target failure) and this test can therefore be used as marker for this variant, pending sequencing confirmation.

Using this approach, this variant has been detected at faster rates than previous surges in infection, suggesting that this variant may have a growth advantage.

There are a number of studies underway and the Technical Advisory Group on SARS-CoV-2 Virus Evolution (TAG-VE) will continue to evaluate this variant. WHO will communicate new findings with Member States and to the public as needed.

Based on the evidence presented indicative of a detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology, the TAG-VE has advised WHO that this variant should be designated as a VOC, and the WHO has designated B.1.1.529 as a VOC, named Omicron.

SARS-CoV-2 VOC is a SARS-CoV-2 variant that meets the definition of a VOI (see above) and, through a comparative assessment, has been demonstrated to be associated with one or more of the following changes at a degree of global public health significance:

• increase in transmissibility or detrimental change in COVID-19 epidemiology; OR

• increase in virulence or change in clinical disease presentation; OR

• decrease in effectiveness of public health and social measures or available diagnostics, vaccines, therapeutics

A SARS-CoV-2 VOI is a SARS-CoV-2 variant:

• with genetic changes that are predicted or known to affect virus characteristics such as transmissibility, disease severity, immune escape, diagnostic or therapeutic escape; AND

• that has been identified as causing significant community transmission or multiple COVID-19 clusters, in multiple countries with increasing relative prevalence alongside increasing number of cases over time, or other apparent epidemiological impacts to suggest an emerging risk to global public health.

“This is the fifth variant of Concern. It has about 30 S-gene mutation. This concerns the scientific community a bit” Jeewandara said.

“Of those 30mutationsaround 10 may affect the transmission. Therefore,scientistpredict it may spread faster than the delta variant”

“But these are still predictions. The scientists are still investigating the biology of the variant”
Jeewandara said with as a preventive measure the Molecular and Cell Biology Unit is also plan to increase the gene sequencing test numbers to detect any new variants coming to Sri Lanka.

Issuing preventive measure WHO has asked the countries to do the following:

• enhance surveillance and sequencing efforts to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants.

• submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database, such as GISAID.

• report initial cases/clusters associated with VOC infection to WHO through the IHR mechanism.

• where capacity exists and in coordination with the international community, perform field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of the VOC on COVID-19 epidemiology, severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization, or other relevant characteristics.

Individuals are reminded to take measures to reduce their risk of COVID-19, including proven public health and social measures such as wearing well-fitting masks, hand hygiene, physical distancing, improving ventilation of indoor spaces, avoiding crowded spaces, and getting vaccinated.

“In terms of the efficacy we have no data yet. There are several cases reports around the world where people being infected with the variant despite the vaccination. And some who were initially infected with delta variant has re infected with the Omicron variant” Jeewandara said.

“However, we still do not have concrete data”

Jeewndara asked the public to stick to the basic guidelines.

“As soon as possible get the vaccine, as well as the booster. The booster will boost the antibodies in the body”Jeewandara said.

“Majority of the population in the country got the Sinopharm vaccine. As our test showed, after around three months the antibody level drops of those who took Sinopharm. Therefore,get the booster Dose when the right time comes. It will prevent your body from going to a sever state” Jeewandara said.

Sri Lanka has so far given the first dose to 15.9 million people while the 13.7 million has received both
first and second doses.

The Booster dose from the Pfizer vaccine has given to a total of 465,048 so far.

Variants of Concerns
Alpha – B.1.1.7
Beta – B.1.351
Gamma – P.1
Delta – B.1.617.2
Omicron – B.1.1.529

Variants of Interest
Lambda – C.37
Mu – B.1.621

Variants Under Monitoring
AZ.5 #
B.1.617.1 §
B.1.526 §
B.1.525 §

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