Nima Wangdi 

World Health Organizations (WHO) has cautioned that Omicron is not a “mild” strain.

In fact,Omicron could have full spectrum of the disease, from being asymptomatic to mild disease, all the way to severe disease to death.

WHO continues to maintain that Omicron spreads faster than any other previous variants.

Increased transmission is expected to lead to hospitalization and burden health-care system.

“Over burdened system will lead to death,” WHO said on Wednesday.

Omicron has now spread to 89 countries in all six WHO regions is expected to outpace the Delta variant.

Omicron is a highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations, including 26-32 in spike protein, some of which are concerning and may be associated with immune scape potential and higher transmissibility.

WHO said that it was uncertain as to whether the observed “rapid growth rate” could be attributed to immune evasion, intrinsic increased transmissibility, or combination of both.

There is no peer-reviewed evidence, on vaccine efficacy or effectiveness to date for Omicron.

Preliminary findings from South Africa, the US, UK, and China on Covid-19 vaccines have shown that Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, AstraZeneca and Sinovac are ineffective against the strain even after two doses.

Booster dose, reportedly, has been proved effective.

Although Bhutan has 15 Covid-19 active cases currently, there is no record of Omicron in the country so far.

Given the importance of booster dose against the Omicron, it will be rolled out from December 24 until 31 for 228,581  priority population  nationwide.

Priority Group includes adults who are18 years and above living in the high-risk areas, elderly people who are 65 years and above, persons with chronic medical conditions, health workers and outbound travellers.

Bhutan has 263,010 doses of mRNA vaccine, out of which 159,570 doses are Pfizer which will expire in March 2022, and 103,440 doses of Moderna (half doses) which will in February 2022. Some 69,000 doses of Covishield will expire in March 2023.

Although only mRNA vaccine types are being used for booster doses worldwide, Bhutan will provide AstraZeneca as an option for those who  received AstraZeneca for the first two doses or if mRNA vaccine is contraindicated, according to Health Ministry.

According to PMO, Bhutan is already in the heightened Covid-19 protocols.

India has detected 145 Omicron cases so far.