Ever since the emergence of the first infections in Wuhan China all the way back in December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed everyday life for people all around the globe.
COVID-19 virus – SARS-COV-2, has been relentlessly evolving as it continues to spread. From its original Alpha strain, its newest mutations include the current Omicron variant discovered in November 2021, together with the new Omicron subvariant XBB which is a combination of two Omicron sub variants. With its higher risk of reinfection, the world has observed an exponential growth in the number of positive cases since its discovery. The XBB strain has evolved with at least seven new mutations, making it harder for our body’s immune system to recognise it and thus being better at evading our bodies attempts to get rid of it.
Despite the surging number of infected cases, Malaysia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) has stated that there is not yet evidence of this new variant causing severe symptoms, as the only ones that have been reported were sore throat, body ache or mild fever.
In a recent interview, virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Da from Universiti Sains Malaysia has quoted a recent study in China, claiming that the XBB subvariant is the most immune-evading out of all the other variants we have encountered so far. The good news is, with the new Pfizer Covid-19 bivalent vaccine that Malaysia will be receiving soon, the public may rest assured regarding this new vaccine’s effectiveness against the XBB subvariants. Therefore, the Health Ministry has once again urged the public to get their second booster shot, especially high risk populations such as the elderly, those with concurrent illnesses, and those who were infected with earlier strains of the virus. Basically, booster shots are crucial for boosting one’s immune system, especially with the newest vaccine that provides better protection against the new XBB subvariant.
With all that being said, booster shots are not magical cure-alls that will make all risk of infection go away. As responsible Malaysian citizens, precautionary steps will still need to be taken such as washing or sanitizing hands regularly, conducting self-testing using rapid test kits (RTK) after each social gathering, and avoiding poorly ventilated crowded areas. Most importantly, wearing a well-fitting face mask correctly and practicing 1 meter social distancing in public areas goes a long way in decreasing one’s exposure to the virus.
With vaccination as one of our most effective tools against this pandemic and medical/surgical mask as our first-line of defense, let us continue to stay strong in this long fought pandemic battle.