Nigeria plans COVID booster shots after Omicron cases

Nigeria will start vaccine booster shots from next week for COVID-19, a senior official has said, after the country confirmed its first cases of the Omicron variant among two travellers who arrived from South Africa last week.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said booster shots will be available from December 10 to those that have been fully vaccinated.First identified by South African scientists more than a week ago, Omicron has highlighted the disparity between massive vaccination programmes in rich nations and sparse inoculation in the developing world.

Dutch authorities say 18 passengers from South Africa had Omicron

Dutch health authorities have said the final tally of passengers on two flights from South Africa last week who tested positive for the Omicron coronavirus variant is 18.

The Netherlands’ Institute for Health (RIVM) added in a statement that its investigation on passengers on the two flights has now been wrapped up.

The flights had already taken off on November 26 when the Dutch government introduced new travel restrictions due to worries about the newly detected strain.

Where have Omicron cases been reported?

  • Africa: Botswana, Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Zimbabwe.
  • Americas: Brazil, Canada, Mexico, United States.
  • Asia-Pacific: Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Sri Lanka.
  • Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
  • Middle East: Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates.

India detects third Omicron case

India has reported its third case of the Omicron strain.

Officials in the western state of Gujarat said the patient who tested positive for Omicron was a 72-year old man of Indian origin who had lived in Zimbabwe for decades, and returned on November 28.

The country reported 8,603 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total to 34.62 million.

Omicron spread ‘to provide jab insight’

Dr Sanjaya Senanayake, associate professor of infectious diseases at the Australian National University, said he expects more Omicron infections in the next days.

“While it was wonderful that South Africa was able to alert us as early as they discovered the variant, the reality is that it was already in some places when that was announced,” Senanayake told Al Jazeera.

“I expect us to see further community spread within Australia and other parts of the world, but that may not necessarily be a bad thing because it will give us a lot of opportunities to understand how this variant works in highly vaccinated countries,” he said.

Omicron variant may have picked up a piece of common-cold virus

According to researchers, the Omicron variant has likely acquired at least one of its mutations by picking up a snippet of genetic material from another virus – possibly one that causes the common cold – present in the same infected cells.

This genetic sequence does not appear in any earlier versions of the coronavirus, called SARS-CoV-2, but is ubiquitous in many other viruses, including those that cause the common cold, and also in the human genome, researchers said.

 

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