Diana Abdulganiyeva: ‘We are absolutely convinced that this variant cannot be underestimated’
The chief visiting therapist of the Tatarstan Ministry of Health Care about the dangers of “stealth” Omicron, a fall in Tatarstan residents’ herd immunity and a big risk group
“The variant in China isn’t so harmless, several tens of deaths have already been registered there. Therefore we are in early days to say the new wave of coronavirus will bypass us,” warns the chief visiting therapist of the Tatarstan Ministry of Health Care Diana Abdulganiyeva. According to her, unlike good figures in early spring, now a fall in herd immunity is seen in Tatarstan, which cannot help but concern doctors. In an op-ed column for Realnoe Vremya, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Professor, Head of the Department of Hospital Therapy of Kazan State Medical University talks about the dangers of “stealth” Omicron and a considerable number of Tatarstan citizens who turned out to be in the risk group.
If we should wait for a new wave and how dangerous “stealth” Omicron is
Nowadays Shanghai — one of China’s largest cities — is in total lockdown. We see in the press and on social media that the streets of the city with a population of 26 million are empty. Such strict lockdown was imposed in Shanghai because the variant that is now diagnosed in patients with asymptomatic and clinical forms of COVID-19 isn’t so harmless — several tens of deaths have already been registered there. Therefore we are probably in early days to say that the new wave of the coronavirus infection will bypass us.
“Stealth” Omicron is another variant of the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19). “Stealth” Omicron is a variant of Omicron, therefore it spreads as fast as that latter does.
Also, “stealth” Omicron is contagious that is characteristic of Omicron. If an unvaccinated person or fragile patient are in one room with a person infected with this subvariant, he will likely fall ill. Working and living with coronavirus infection for more than two years now, we are absolutely convinced that this variant cannot be underestimated.
Regarding adverse outcomes or, more precisely the death rate, “stealth” Omicron is comparable with Omicron. Nowadays our Asian and European colleagues publish data in scientific articles that it affects primarily upper airways. The symptoms of “stealth” Omicron are similar to the symptoms of an acute viral respiratory infection — it is a pain in the throat, congested nose, tickling. But this virus can also penetrate lower airways and damage internal organs.
Unfortunately, we already see post-COVID-19 manifestations in patients who have had Omicron. A lot of people have contracted this variant. The patients who didn’t receive an anti-viral therapy and treatment now say they would be more responsible about the treatment if they knew what complications they would face after the disease.
Why revaccination is necessary
When people understood that it was necessary to get vaccinated, we really achieved good results to get herd immunity. Herd immunity figures were very high in Tatarstan in February and March 2022 when the population was actively immunised. But we know that the number of antibodies in blood serum starts to decrease in six months.
Unfortunately, now we see a slow decrease in herd immunity by some 0,5-1% a week. According to Russia’s consumer rights protection watchdog, herd immunity in the Republic of Tatarstan is now about 45-46%.
Russian Minister of Health Care Mikhail Murashko said in early April that the coronavirus incidence might rise in late May and early June. It takes time to create antibodies, therefore the first half of May is the best time for vaccination and revaccination.
For who coronavirus is especially dangerous
Some groups of patients are in the risk group of moderately severe and severe development of the novel coronavirus infection, that’s to say, having pneumonia. It is patients with diabetes, cancer, serious chronic lung diseases, ischemic heart disease, patients receiving immunosuppressive therapy, patients with transplanted organs, pregnant women and women during the first 40 days after giving birth. All these people are recommended vaccination. The vaccines that are now used in Russia are very safe and efficient. According to research, 92-95% of people have antibodies after being vaccinated with Sputnik V and Sputnik Light.
However, medicine works in a way that there are always exceptions: 3-5% of the population don’t have antibodies after vaccination. As a rule, it is people with serious diseases — patients after organ transplantation, people receiving chemo, patients with chronic lung diseases, people with primary immunodeficiency whose immune system cannot respond to the vaccine.
Science makes progress
Science and pharmacology also fight the pandemic — we have methods to treat people who don’t have antibodies.
Firstly, nowadays we have a big range of antiviral medicines that target the virus impeding it from going down the lungs, from affecting the vessels, the heart, kidneys and other internal organs.
Secondly, treatment with medicines based on monoclonal virus neutralising antibodies is done in Russia in general and Tatarstan in particular. What is this? When a person recovered from the disease, he or she has immunity, and antibodies appear in blood plasma. When observing blood plasma in patients who had the novel coronavirus infection, scientists had an idea that these antibodies could be recreated in the lab. In other words, monoclonal antibodies are artificially created antibodies.
There are five monoclonal virus neutralising antibodies. Four of them are authorised for treatment and prevention of the novel coronavirus infection after contact. Post-exposure prevention is when a patient receives the medicine after contacting an ill person.
Also, there are medicines used for pre-exposure prevention of coronavirus, that’s to say, to develop passive immunity in patients whose antibodies are created slower or aren’t created at all. In this case, a person is administered ready antibodies, not a medicine to fight the infection. This is the principal difference of monoclonal antibodies from vaccination. When we vaccinate a patient, his organism starts to develop antibodies. In the case of monoclonal antibody, we administer ready external proteins that circulate in the human blood serum and neutralise the virus if it gets into the organism. Hence the name, virus neutralising monoclonal antibodies.
How to protect yourself
Firstly, when you come home after going to public places, wash your face and hands, rinse the mouth and nose. These simple actions allow reducing the amount of the virus if it is on your face and mucous membrane.
Of course, it is necessary to wear a mask in public and crowded places.
If you have signs of an acute viral respiratory infection, don’t go to work, visit aged relatives, be in crowded areas without a mask or special respirators.
If you fell ill, please, go to health workers as soon as possible to receive professional advice and antiviral therapy on time, during the first 5-7 days after the onset of the disease.
The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.