Friday, Mar 31, 2023

Vaccine Equity, Racism And Calls For Clarity: How Twitter Reacted To Omicron

Vaccine Equity, Racism And Calls For Clarity: How Twitter Reacted To Omicron

Several healthcare experts such as former WHO chief Tedros took to social media to speak on several aspects of the emergence on Omicron.

How Twitter reacted to Omicron Covid-19 variant ooutbreak PTI/Twitter

The Omicron variant, feared to spread faster and partially reduce vaccine protection, was identified in South Africa earlier this week and classed as a variant of concern by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A “variant of concern” is the WHO's top category of worrying COVID-19 variants. 

The variant was identified days ago by researchers in South Africa, and much is still not known about it, including whether it is more contagious, more likely to cause serious illness or more able to evade the protection of vaccines.

Countries around the world are currently racing to introduce travel bans and restrictions on southern African countries in an effort to contain Omicron's spread.

European countries along with the UK have banned travel to and from South Africa and neighbouring countries of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, as well as Lesotho and Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), both of which are landlocked within South Africa.

The Indian government has also reviewed its guidelines and rules for incoming international travellers and is yet to take a call on receiving its decision to allow international flights to resume from December 15.

The sudden emergence of the virus has led to a flurry of international healthcare experts and epidemiologists taking to social and legacy media platforms to share their thoughts on the various aspects of the phenomena.

Former WHO chief Tedros drew the world's attention to the importance of global vaccine sharing. "The Omicron variant reflects the threat of prolonged vaccine injustice. The longer we take to deliver vaccine equity," he said.

Award-winning physician and popular healthcare personality on social media, Dr Fheem Younis said tweeted that he did not "believe omicron will not outspread delta". While not enough information is as yet available about the Omipcron variant, researchers are trying to determine how fast the virus transmits as opposed to previous variants like Delta.

 Dr Julia Grace Patterson of the Every Doctor UK foundation gave a rebuttal to the critics and naysayers dismissing expert advice and caution as "panic". Since the discovery of the Omicron strain of the virus in South Africa, many people have ridiculed the warning of doctors, healthcare experts, epidemiologists and even governments as as alarmism.

Kotak Mahindra Bank CEO Uday Kotak threw in an economic perspective on the hue and cry around Omicron.

English broadcaster Piers Morgan slammed those who were referring to the Omicron variant as the 'South Africa' variant, drawing attention to the racist undertones of such usage.

Author Eric Topol also defended the South Africans even as posts highlighting the problem of referring the Omicron was a 'virus from South Africa' went viral.

Journalist Jim Mallo tweeted about the travel bans that several countries have put in place against travellers from South Africa and nearby countries. The travel restrictions have led to debate with South Africa terming the bans as 'draconian'. The South African Prime Ministe on Monday said that the travel restrictions would also hurt the economies of the nations in the region which are already suffering due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Not just Mallo, many others raised questions about travel restrictions. 


 In India, where no cases of the Omicron variant have been detected yet, many on social media sought more clarity about the variant and how dangerous it truly was. However, in lack of scientific data so far, even experts remain in the dark.


Yet, many like CAIT Chairman Subhas Agarwalla took to social media to remind people of the importance of staying safe and continuing to maintain Covid-19 protocol.