Epidemiologist Branko Kolaric Unsure About Herd Immunity Through Omicron

By 11 January 2022

January the 11th, 2022 - The new Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has taken Europe by storm, sweeping through country after country with some richer Northern European nations such as the United Kingdom recording eye-watering infection rates despite having a very high vaccination rate. Croatian epidemiologist Branko Kolaric has spoken out about Omicron, stating that while this variant is the mildest of all so far, he doesn't believe that it will necessarily lead to herd immunity.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, epidemiologist Branko Kolaric of the Croatian Institute of Public Health has stated that he is far from surprised by the large number of newly infected people since Omicron began to spread.

"I can't say I'm surprised by the numbers. Many countries have a similar situation at the moment. We've had bigger and more gatherings over the last two weeks, school starts today. We have an overlap of the fourth and fifth waves. This level of spread can be slowed down, but we need adequate measures in order to ensure that,'' he told HTV.

Is omicron the mildest variant? Our hospitals are still filling up... Is the reason Croatia's poor level of vaccination?

''Yes, that's the most important reason and what causes the greatest level of concern. We have poor vaccination coverage. We also have a lot of people off on sick leave, and there will be infections spreading around in schools. There will be a lot of self-isolation to come. Omicron is the mildest variant, but when you have a lot more infected people, then the number of people in hospitals is higher. Today we have 250 people needing a respirator,'' epidemiologist Branko Kolaric explained.

Rules in schools as the kids return to the classrooms

''I was in favour of extending the school holidays for another week. In addition to the risks posed by being in school, there's also the issue of public transport. In Split there are a large number of people hospitalised, 85 percent of those people are unvaccinated, a large number are elderly… A large number of new patients infected with covid needing medical help are younger people.

The entire population is affected by the virus now. In Britain, for example, the number of hospitalised children was 40, 50, and now with Omicron there are over 100 daily hospitalisations.''

Is Omicron the beginning of the end of the pandemic? Will we reach herd immunity because of it?

''I don't think Omicron will provide herd immunity. Global vaccination is something that would reduce the likelihood of new variants even emerging,'' said epidemiologist Branko Kolaric.

Any new recommendations for this week?

Those who haven't yet been vaccinated, please, go and get vaccinated, wear your masks properly, avoid all unnecessary close contacts, whoever is able to do so, please try to work from home.

About the anti-epidemic measures...

''These are all milder measures, working from home is recommended. We don't have a significant change in the coping strategy with the pandemic on the cards. I expect a large number of infected people to be recorded over the coming days,'' epidemiologist Branko Kolaric said in conversation with HTV.

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