Omicron’s spread has been so widespread that few families have not been affected by it at all – and for some families, that means they have to worry about their children.
In the Toronto area, Sarah Bankuti watched while her newborn baby Aviv spent Saturday in the hospital with COVID-19.
“Very scary because my daughter, she’s 10 weeks old,” she told CTV News. “So she had a fever, and all of yesterday she just threw up constantly.”
Even though the baby is home now, she’s still pretty sick.
The Bankuti family has taken all precautions during the pandemic as their three-year-old daughter Alice has a brain tumor and is in chemotherapy.
Although both parents are vaccinated, COVID-19 still sneaked into the family and infected everyone in the process.
“That’s why COVID is so scary,” Bankuti said. “We do not know at all how it will affect people, but especially for our children, we just do not know. For the last 48 hours we have been so worried. “
She added that their family has not been able to sleep while caring for their children.
“We do not know what the full side effects of this are,” she said. “It’s still new.”
Doctors know how transmissible Omicron is, with its whirlwinding advance around the world, and scientists are worried that Omicron will not be the latest version of the virus.
“More and more people are getting infected,” Leonardo Martinez, an assistant professor at Boston University School of Public Health, told CTV News. “The more people who become infected, the greater the chance that new mutations will occur, and that’s how new variants come about.”
The World Health Organization reported a record 15 million new COVID-19 cases in the week 3-9. January, an increase of 55 percent over the week before.
“The mutations, one change, two changes, do not really matter, do not seize, sometimes it does, and this is where we go from a variant of interest to a variant of concern,” said Cynthia Carr, founder and epidemiologist with EPI research incorporated in Winnipeg.
Small changes can bring the pandemic to an endemic phase, according to Dr. Gerald Evans, an infectious disease physician at the Kingston Health Sciences Center.
“What we are afraid of are the big changes that would produce a new variant with a new Greek letter,” he said.
However, a new variant can avoid immunity better than Omicron, and researchers stress the importance of vaccines to reduce hospitalization, death, and new variants.
“Mutations are more common in severe and long-lasting COVID infections,” Martinez said. “Therefore, because vaccines prevent serious infections, they can also prevent the spread of new varieties.”
All the while hopefully creating a circle of protection around those who are too young to be vaccinated.
“They would actually protect the people who were unvaccinated because the virus cannot enter them because they are surrounded by a whole group of people, where infection and / or transmission after being infected is remarkably reduced by the vaccine.” said Evans.
The vaccination rate is quite high in Canada, but the World Health Organization continues to emphasize the importance of global vaccine coverage.
Although rich countries have been able to acquire an abundance of vaccines, it is a different story for many other regions. 90 countries did not reach the goal of vaccinating 40 percent of their population by the end of last year, and 36 of those countries have not yet vaccinated 10 percent of their population.
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Alexandra Mae Jones