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New data New Covid-19 strain to become dominant 'in days' but it is not more harmful – immunologist

Trinity Professor Kingston Mills said BA.2 is “one and a half times” more transmissible than Omicron

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Professor Kingston Mills.

Professor Kingston Mills.

Professor Kingston Mills.

The Omicron subvariant BA.2 will become the dominant strain in Ireland “in a matter of days” but data it indicates it is not more harmful, according to a leading immunologist.

Trinity Professor Kingston Mills said BA.2 is “one and a half times” more transmissible than Omicron and it has already become dominant in Denmark and the Netherlands.

“The fact that it’s pushing out the other version of Omicron suggests that it’s either evading immunity better or it’s more transmissible and all the evidence suggests that it’s more transmissible,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme.

Prof Mills said the “severity is still unknown” due to contradictory data from various studies around the world.

He explained that Japanese scientists found it “might be more dangerous” but “all the data” from Denmark and Ireland suggests there will be “no increase” in hospitalisations compared with Omicron.

“That’s very good news. If that is the case, well it can be treated in the same way as Omicron in terms of not resulting in a huge number of hospitalisations or ICU admissions.”

Prof Mills said there is a “selective advantage” for a virus that transmits more readily but does not kill its host and “that’s the case with Omicron and with the subvariant BA.2”.

He said it is “widely accepted” now the Covid-19 “has lost its punch” but the immunity generated with the original Omicron variant is “not as good at preventing reinfection with BA.2”.

“If you’ve been vaccinated and got Omicron, you’ll still have a good level of protection against BA.2, but if you haven’t been vaccinated the chances are that you won’t be protected against BA.2.”

Prof Mills added that the emergence of the latest, more transmissible variant makes a strong case for offering booster vaccines to children.

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He said people who have been tripled vaccinated and have contracted Omicron have a high level of protection but children who have only received two vaccine doses are “unlikely” to be protected against BA.2.

“So, there is a case that I’m sure NIAC (National Immunisation Advisory Committee) will be looking at this now and the authorities may decide to give a booster to that age group as well,” he added.

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