‘Omicron evades immunity’

Ministry of Health and Medical Services permanent secretary, Dr. James Fong during a press conference in Suva. Picture: FILE/ JONACANI LALAKOBAU

The Omicron variant has been shown to evade immunity against infection in people who have been infected with previous variants, and those who have been fully vaccinated, says Health Ministry permanent secretary Dr James Fong.

In a virus update on Wednesday, he said this was the reason people who had been infected during the second wave and those who were fully vaccinated, were getting infected and having symptoms again in the third wave.

“The good news is that, while you still may get infected and develop symptoms, two doses of the vaccine still provide very good protection against preventing severe disease,” he said. “However, vaccinated people over the age of 50 or those that have significant chronic diseases may still be vulnerable to severe disease.”

He said a booster dose significantly increased protection from symptomatic infection and strengthened protection against severe disease. Dr Fong said as of January 11, 39,179 Fijians had received a booster dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

“We encourage everyone aged 18 and over to get their booster dose when you are due, but especially if you are at higher risk of developing severe disease, that is, aged over 50 or you have a chronic illness or you are pregnant or obese.

“You may receive your booster dose if it has been at least five months since your second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. “As of January, we have 142,240 people due to receive the booster dose.

“Our current stocks of the Moderna vaccine, which is being used as the booster dose, are in excess of 100,000 doses. “We are also expecting more of the Pfizer vaccine by the middle of this month.”

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