Omicron and Israel: But Why Two Weeks?

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An employee draws up a syringe with the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease at vaccination bus in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. Germany battles rising numbers of coronavirus infections. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP)

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By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com

The school semester is almost over. Many people are in a quandary as to whether Eretz Yisroel will re-open for school winter vacation or not.  Those who already have tickets and those who have not yet bought them are asking, “But why two weeks?”

The following discussion will try to clearly explain the answer to that question. In the answer we can learn more about this particular variant and thus be more informed as to how it should be approached.

The Omicron variant is officially called B1.1.529. We don’t know so much about it yet, because it was only discovered on November 11th.   It was, however, fully sequenced on over 100 people recently – that means scientists can see it entire genome. The variant has been seen in southern Africa, Eretz Yisroel, Hong Kong, Belgium. Italy, Germany, France and we will soon be seeing it in other countries too.

WHAT IS CONCERNING

The reason that all of these countries are going crazy about it – is that this particular variant has a number of mutations on all three major areas.

HOW THE MUTATIONS HAPPEN

A SARS-CoV-2 viral particle enters and infects a human being. It now reproduces itself many, many times inside that human being. Within that person there can be up to a billion or even a trillion different copies of that original tiny little SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The problem is that the replication is not perfect. There may be copying errors leading to mutations.  When the proteins are copied, different amino acids get mixed up in the mutant viruses.

DIFFERENTLY SHAPED

The proteins will now be shaped a lit bit differently.  Most of the new shapes will be harmless.  Some can mutate or use a different amino acid that can infect people more quickly than the original version.  Our immune system may see them as the same protein or as a different protein.   Many of our cells have receptors on them.  The virus has a spike protein on the surface of it which interacts with our ACE-2 Receptors.  These protein receptors are found on the surface of cells in our GI tract, our respiratory tract and in our vascular system.

HOW MUTATIONS CAN MAKE AN IMPACT

Mutations that are on the tip of the spike protein can effect whether binding will or will not happen – depending on how mutated the virus ends up. This is also the key area that will determine the interaction aspect of the antibodies are produced.  The mutations can be inside the particle, on the outside or on the spike tip.

There are three major areas in which we can divide this viral particle:

  • There is the virus itself with mutations inside the viral particle that can make different proteins.
  • There is the spike protein, which is specifically the entire spike protein on its surface.
  • There is the very tip of the spike protein, known as the receptor binding domain. This is where our immune system will or will not recognize the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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After the replication process occurs millions of times, there will be mutations. If the mutations make it easier to either bind, or avoid the immune system, that can the viral particle will survive more and be transmitted more.

That is the concern that the scientists will be able to check on in the two-week window.

INSIDE THE VIRUS MUTATIONS

The Alpha variant was one of the first variants with increased odds of survival.

  • The Alpha variant had 23 mutations.
  • The Delta variant had 17 mutations.
  • The Omicron variant has some 50 different mutations.

SPIKE PROTEIN MUTATIONS

That is in terms of survival of the virus.  In terms of how transmissible it is, we have to look at the spike protein and the vaccines.

  • The Alpha variant had nine mutations on its spike protein.
  • The Delta variant had seven mutations on its spike protein.
  • The Omicron variant has thirty two mutations on its spike protein (so far that the scientists have been able to detect)

TIP OF THE SPIKE MUTATIONS

Lets now look at the variants in terms of the tip of the spike mutations or the receptor binding domain.

  • The Alpha variant had one mutation on the tip of its spike.
  • The Delta variant had two mutations on the tip of its spike.
  • The Omicron variant has ten mutations on the tip of its spike.

So that gives you an idea about just the amount of mutations that we’re seeing now in this variant, which is quickly outpacing even Delta in places like South Africa.

THE FOUR QUESTIONS

The questions that the researchers are addressing are in four areas.

  1. Is the Omicron variant more transmittable than the other variants? Does it spread faster?
  2. How well does it step around the different vaccines?
  3. Will the previous natural immunities from having had COVID and or the vaccines help reduce the severity of the virus?
  4. Are there other systems in the body that could be effected by the mutations?

THE ANSWERS SO FAR

It seems from the initial data from South Africa that this variant is much more transmittable.  But the Delta variant was also more transmittable in South Africa.  We don’t know about the step-around either.  Also, only about 24% of South Africa is vaccinated. When vaccination rates are low, it will be more transmittable.  But the actuaries and statisticians cn determine this better in the two-week window.  We also don’t know too much about natural immunities nor if there are other systems in the body that can be affected.  Remember, it has only been identified since November 11th.

THE GREAT EXPERIMENT

The vaccines work on both the spike protein and the tip of the spike.  Will the Omicron step around the vaccines?  How different are the mutations?

Over the next two weeks, scientists will put the viral particles of the Omicron Variant in a test tube and mix them with the antibodies from those who have been vaccinated and those with natural immunity. They will look at whether or not  the antibodies bind to the spike proteins and the tips in order to prevent those spike proteins from binding to our ACE2 receptors.  They will also look at how well they do so.  Will it be 10% effective or 80% effective?

From what the author has put together, this is why Israel has given its two-week time period.

** There is a Yesoma who boruch Hashem just got engaged.  If anyone would like to assist in making her chasuna please donate here or contact the author.**

Rabbi Hoffman can be reached at [email protected].  He had served on the ethics committee of Brookhaven Memorial Hospital for over 25 years and has been involved in presenting issues and shailos of medical halacha with psakim from leading Gedolim past and present.

** There is a Yesoma who boruch Hashem just got engaged.  If anyone would like to assist in making her chasuna please donate here or contact the author.**


5 COMMENTS

  1. Major missing information here.
    1)This new variant so far has been found to cause an extremely mild version of Covid.
    2)Effectively it is a natural way for those who refuse to vaccinate (in the spirit of שומר פתאים ה) to get vaccinated.
    So there is no justification for shutting down.

  2. Every time the vaccine doesn’t work, they add a 2.0 to the old varrient. So now they double down
    1 can make new vaccines
    2 explain why people who took vaccine are dieing. Who knows the joke the Rebba asked I have many segulas still do you still have katchkas???

  3. Untill 2 years ago a person was not feeling well he went to the doctor the doctor checked if there is anything going on and if everything was good the Dr said you have a virus he was send home. And life went on like normal. And am sure if you look back on the yearly numbers people died from virus but they didn’t make a big deal. So question is why is not different answer in 2021 they have names for all the virus so they have the keys to spin the whole word.