By Monica Chloe Condrillon

The Department of Health and health experts warn the netizens not to belittle Omicron as they contradict a belief that the Omicron variant could possibly be the ‘beginning of the end’ for the COVID-19 pandemic.

PHOTO: Melissa Brown/Dominican Friars Foundation

This after Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, an OCTA Research fellow, molecular biologist, and catholic priest, cited a study regarding how the Omicron variant is a ‘natural vaccine’.

He said that those who will survive Omicron could gain antibodies against other variants - Delta, Gamma, Beta, Alpha, and D614G.

“This is the hope and the prayer. The Omicron is actually a blessing. It will be hard for one month, but afterwards, it should be a blessing because it should provide the population protection that we need everywhere,” Austriaco expressed.

His prediction stated that the virus would spread so rapidly, making plenty of people vulnerable that it will run out of food sooner and will then begin to crash. 

“And when it runs out of food, it will begin to crash — which is why you see in South Africa, the numbers are crashing. In London, the numbers are beginning to fall only because, once it spreads like wildfire, and when all the trees are burned, there’s nowhere for it to go. So it begins to crash,” he further explained.

Omicron a virus, not a vaccine

"Huwag ho tayong maging complacent. Huwag ho tayong magpapahawa dahil po sa statements na ganito. Hindi po ganyan ang direksyon ng ating response dito," expressed by DOH spokesperson Ma. Rosario Vergeire, saying that netizens should still be mindful of Omicron variant

(We should not be complacent, Let’s not intentionally get ourselves infected because of statements like this. This is not the direction our response is going.)

Asking for the understanding of the Filipinos, she explained how more infections could give the virus more chances for their cycle to replicate and produce.

“At ang pinakaimportante, mas nagkakaroon ng tsansa ang virus na magmutate, so kailangan pigilan po natin ang ganito karaming infection para hindi tayo magkaroon ng further mutations ng virus which can lead to more fatal outcomes,” Vergeire stressed.

(And the most important part is there will be more chances for the virus to mutate, so we need to stop these infections to halt further mutations of the virus which can lead to more fatal outcomes.)

Various health experts and professionals also expressed their frustrations as they disagree with the ‘beginning of an end’ claim by Austriaco, saying that these statements sounded ‘irresponsible’.

On the other hand, DOH Technical Advisory Group (TAG) highlighted that Omicron is still a variant of a virus that could lead to damages and not a vaccine.

“Ang Omicron po ay virus, hindi po siya bakuna. Hindi katulad ng mga bakuna natin na very safe at hindi nakakahawa ng ibang tao, itong Omicron ay pwede pa rin magdulot ng malaking pinsala,” said Dr. Edsel Salvana, member of DOH-TAG and director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the National Institutes of Health at the University of the Philippines – Manila.

(Omicron is a virus, not a vaccine. Unlike vaccines that are safe and not a carrier of infections, this Omicron variant can cause heavy damage.)

The debate over Omicron’s potency further developed when Dr. Anna Ong-Lim, another member of DOH-TAG and chief of the Infectious and Tropical Disease of the Pediatrics Department at the University of the Philippines, said that there is no definite proof yet if the Omicron variant can really provide antibodies on other SARS-CoV-2 variants, noting that the virus is unpredictable.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also stressed that Omicron is killing people all over the world and that calling it ‘mild’ is a mistake given the fact that tsunami cases are said to be quick and overwhelming for the health systems across the globe.

Vaccination still most effective

As an addition to his statements made earlier this week, Fr. Nicanor Austriaco in a Laging Handa briefing just this Friday said that Omicron should not be underestimated for it is ‘still a killer’.

“So it’s important that every single one of our kababayans still get vaccinated and boosted because it might help the country as a whole, it might be a blessing in disguise at the end of the surge that we replace a deadly variant like Delta with Omicron,” he added.

He also mentioned that two weeks ago, Walter Reed Medical Hospital, a military hospital from the United States, showed a report that it is in the process of developing a pan-coronavirus vaccine. 

“This is a vaccine that will be effective against all variants of COVID-19 po. So with all these developments, I really do believe that we are at the beginning at the end of the pandemic.” he added.