We’ll know how effective vaccines are against the omicron variant in 1 to 2 weeks says Professor Van Ranst

The Leuven University (KUL) virologist Professor Marc Van Ranst has told the press agency Belga that the efficacity of coronavirus vaccines against the new omicron variant should be known within 1 to 2 weeks. Currently it is still unclear how well the vaccines offer protection against the new variant that was first discovered by scientists in South Africa. This uncertainty is the source of much concern, not least as it is still unclear how ill those that have been infected with the omicron variant of coronavirus become. 

Professor Van Ranst says that this uncertainty will have been dispelled within the next couple of weeks. "We still haven't been able to examine this at our lab in Leuven. The sample that we have examined (the only known case in Belgium so far) wasn’t fresh enough. Other countries and pharmaceutical companies are diligently looking into it, and I believe that we will know more soon”, Professor Van Ranst said.

In the meantime, the virologist believes that the restrictions on travel to Southern Africa are sensible. "We are presuming a worst-case scenario. If it transpires that the variant is less infectious then we shouldn't hesitate in lifting the restrictions”.

Up until now the omicron variant has only produced mild symptoms among those that have become infected with it in South Africa, a South African doctor said on Sunday.

However, "I’s still too early to make any big declarations about it. These results related predominantly to infections among the younger population. The omicron variant still hasn’t reached older people. If it turns out that the variant is highly infectious, but at the same time doesn’t make people very ill, it would be a very positive thing. It would mean that it could drive out the Delta variant and I’m all for that”, Professor Van Ranst said.

The Leuven University virologist concluded by saying that there are currently no more know infections with the omnicron variant in Belgium. 

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