It has not officially been named by the WHO, but rather got the name “Centaurus” as a suggestion by a Twitter user. It has however been classified a variant of concern by WHO and is being watched closely.
This variant has been flagged because of mutations in its spike protein, but according to some scientists we should not be concerned as yet. We need to see how it fares against other sub-variants. It’s believed to be antibody evasive – including in people who’ve had COVID before or have been previously vaccinated. It may be able to infect cells more readily and transmit quickly, but that does not translate into increased hospitalisation and deaths because of the robustness of the immune system.
It’s likely that we may start to see cases in the next three weeks or so according to Dr Shabir Madhi, Dean of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand. We don’t anticipate increased hospitalisations or death as 90% of South Africans have already got immunity. (Our open policy, lack of respect for law and regulation generally is ironically possibly what is saving us now and in future waves to come. Herd immunity appears to be the key and to achieve this, we need infection to spread and vaccination rates to continue to increase).
Prof Madhi has advised that in people with increased risk of developing severe disease e.g. those who have comorbidities or are 50 and older, should probably get a booster as an additional layer of protection before this variant arrives in SA. People with critical skills such as healthcare workers may also consider a booster.
The NICD, CDC or National DoH have not yet published any recommendations or specific guidelines on this sub-variant.
Fedhealth continues to recommend that members, especially those at high risk (immune suppressed, advanced age, oncology or other co-morbidities), ensure that their vaccinations and boosters are up to date.