XBB Omicron variant rising in Thailand: New strategies deployed
Approximately 52% of new Covid-19 cases in Thailand have been attributed to the XBB sub-strain of the Omicron variant, according to the Centre for Medical Genomics. As a result, a prominent doctor has urged the public to obtain booster shots before the onset of the rainy season.
The XBB variant and its sub-strains have been responsible for recent surges in Covid infections worldwide, leading the World Health Organization (WHO) to change the designation of the XBB.1.16 sub-substrain from a “variant under monitoring” to a “variant of interest”.
In Thailand, the Ramathibodi Hospital’s Centre for Medical Genomics reports that 34 current cases have been caused by the XBB1.15 sub-strain, accounting for approximately 15% of all Covid cases in the country.
The Centre for Medical Genomics is in the process of developing a test kit specifically targeting the XBB sub-variant, utilising the mass array genotyping technology. This will aid in detecting and identifying the variant.
In addition, the centre is striving to enhance its antigen test kits to enable them to determine the specific sub-strain responsible for a patient’s infection. The work is projected to be completed within the next two weeks.
Based on genomic analysis by the Centre for Medical Genomics, it is expected that the XBB.1.16 sub-variant will become the dominant sub-strain in Thailand in the coming months.
Yong Poovorawan, head of the Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology at Chulalongkorn University, has recommended that Covid vaccinations be administered annually, akin to influenza vaccinations.
He underscored that the purpose of the Covid vaccine is not to prevent infection but to protect recipients from severe symptoms, hospitalisation, and death, particularly among vulnerable groups. Poovorawan noted that outbreaks typically occur at the beginning of the rainy season or at the start of the school term. As such, he suggests that the ideal timeframe for booster shots is between May and June.
Beginning May 1, both Covid and influenza vaccines will be accessible at hospitals throughout the country. Vaccinations against both viruses are encouraged for the “608” vulnerable group, which includes senior citizens, individuals with underlying health conditions, medical personnel, and frontline workers.
Hospitals and medical centres registered with the National Health Security Office will offer Covid vaccines. The Pao Tang mobile app provides a list of affiliated hospitals.
Residents of Bangkok can make advanced bookings for vaccines through the app from April 17 to August 31. With the expected rise in XBB sub-variant cases, timely vaccinations and booster shots remain crucial for public health and maintaining hospital capacity.
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