HealthKart 5 MIN READ 171 VIEWS January 28, 2022

Omicron: The Effect It Has On Your Immunity

Written By HealthKart
Medically Reviewed By Dr. Aarti Nehra

Omicron
Why is Omicron So Contagious
Omicron and Immunity
Need to Take Precautions
Conclusion

The world was taken by surprise in the wake of 2022 which seemed like the year when things would finally be normal again. The Omicron variant began to spread rampantly, affecting millions across the globe. This virus seemed to even evade vaccination and any immunity obtained from past COVID-19 infections. 

However, with symptoms milder than the previous variant, especially in vaccinated people, Omicron has become the center of a debate in the scientific community. Is it so strong that it blunts our immune system? Or is it the silver lining that we have all been waiting for? Let us understand how omicron affects our immunity and what we need to know about this variant to stay safe. 

Why is Omicron So Contagious? 

In comparison to Delta, Omicron is 5.4 times more likely to reinfect you, according to a report presented by the Imperial College of London. Of course, research shows that this is a highly contagious variant and we don’t need the numbers to prove this. There are a few possible reasons that make this variant highly contagious: 

1. Immunity Evasion

The number of cases is increasing so sharply that the variant seems to evade any form of immunity. Immunity evasion seems to be the best possible answer to the highly contagious nature of this variant. This means that Omicron has the ability to dodge the immune cells and antibodies. Another theory is that the virus has high transmissibility. So, it spreads faster. 

2. Reduced Neutralization

Even after vaccination, people are susceptible to this variant. In fact, the risk of developing an infection was noted to be higher in people who were more than two weeks past their second dose of vaccination. 

So, does this mean that the vaccination is ineffective? Studies have shown that the neutralization activity of our immune system drops significantly in case of an Omicron infection. 

Now, the vaccine that was provided targeted the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Because of the mutations, the Omicron variant is quite different from it. . As a result, the antibodies responsible for neutralizing the virus are unable to recognize the new variant. However, it is important to remember that virus mutants share some of the genetic similarities.

According to a study conducted by the Africa Health Research Unit, neutralization was 41-fold lesser for Omicron in comparison to the earlier variants. It is suggested that vaccination combined with a previous infection can improve the efficacy of the neutralizing antibodies. However, there is no strong evidence suggesting the same, considering the number of reinfections in vaccinated individuals. 

There are several more studies that prove both theories. But what is more interesting is understanding how this virus will affect the immunity of human beings in the longer run. 

Can Omicron Improve Your Immunity? 

The Omicron immunity effects are the most interesting aspect of the study being conducted on this latest variant. Although it is highly contagious, the symptoms are not leading the individuals in general to hospitals. People are also recovering from the symptoms in a shorter time. 

In light of the nature of this virus, there has been a lot of talk on social media about this virus being nature’s vaccine against the deadly pandemic. Although this is not a proven scientific theory, there are several experts who have tried to make an educated guess about the effects of this virus on immunity. 

According to one such expert from the University of California, there is a good chance that the human population will gain some immunity against the Covid-19 virus after the wave of Omicron subsides. His hypothesis states that the low pathogenicity combined with the high transmission rate of this virus could actually help us achieve immunity. 

The ability of the Covid-19 virus to mutate poses the biggest concern. While most people believed that the pandemic would end with Delta, Omicron was discovered. Still, many experts have suggested that the fact that omicron may be the natural vaccine we need, is highly plausible. Here are some theories: 

1. Higher Antibody Levels 

Virologists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine have stated that the antibody level increases when the infection is milder. In fact, this is the basis of any vaccination that is given to us. This means that the protection that we will have from future variants may increase significantly. 

2. From Pandemic to Endemic

There is a possibility that the Omicron virus will continue to spread. However, the symptoms will be mild and the transmission will be modest. This will prevent the chances of future outbreaks.

These theories are, however, subject to the hope that a more virulent variant does not manifest in the near future. The only way to prevent this is to ensure that everyone is vaccinated against the virus, which is a magnificent feat in itself. 

Immunity or No Immunity – Why You Must Take Precautions

While the promise of complete immunity against any strain of Coronavirus is reassuring, there are several reasons why you should still take all precautions possible: 

1. No Understanding of the Long-Term Effects 

The Omicron variant and its effects on the immune system are both poorly researched considering the age of the virus. It is relatively new and we can only speculate about the long-term effects of this virus. There could be long periods of infections in some individuals. This could be accompanied by severe symptoms. 

Most people also believe that getting infected means that you are immune to coronavirus. This is true for a few months but not for a long time. Since we are unsure about what new variants may emerge, it is best to continue with all precautionary measures. 

2. Vulnerable Individuals are at High Risk Still

The Omicron symptoms are mild in healthy individuals, no doubt. However, there are several other factors like age and comorbidities that may increase the chances of a severe infection. If you do not take precautions and happen to contract Omicron infection, you may be putting the lives of individuals who are more vulnerable at risk. 

It is also important to take children into consideration. Transmitting the virus to the children who are not old enough to be vaccinated is a high possibility. 

3. Strain on Medical Resources 

It is a well-known fact that the medical fraternity has been bearing the brunt of the pandemic. Higher infections only add to the strain that is already causing a lot of distress. With the healthcare workers focused on the virus, people with other health issues suffer greatly. 

With a higher rate of infection, you are also likely to have fewer resources when you fall sick. You may not have enough treatment options as the demand for medical attention increases with more cases emerging each day. 

Conclusion

Omicron has been around for just a few months and has already given us a lot of reasons to be alarmed. The primary issue with this virus is the lack of information. We do not know the exact Omicron immunity effects. There is no certainty on whether it boosts or blunts our overall immunity. 

The only way out is to stay protected from infection, to begin with. Healthy eating, regular exercise, and following all the recommended protocols are the need of the hour.

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