Covid specialist expects a new wave of Covid-19 cases to hit DR in January

Dr. Jorge Yunen and Pablo McKinney / Hoy

The Dominican Republic is celebrating record lows of Covid-19 spread as the Christmas holidays unfold. This is the time when hundreds of thousands of Dominicans come home from abroad. Dominicans are returning from dozens of countries that are now suffering from mass spread of the Omicron variant.

Dr. Jose Rafael Yunén is warning the population to stick to preventive methods – vaccine boosters, mask wearing, hand hygiene and avoiding crowds. He alerts against being lulled into the same sense of complacency that has later resulted in major virus outbreaks around the world.

In a TV interview, Dr. José Rafael Yunén said the authorities and the people need to prepare for a fifth wave of Covid-19 to begin in January 2022.

The expert in internal medicine, infectious diseases and critical medicine warned that those who are confident that everything is fine because the positivity of the virus is low at the moment may wake up with the country facing a critical moment.

“We know that another wave is coming, we know that the whole world is talking about Omicron… Why should we think we are shielded from Omicron?,” Dr. Yunén asked outloud. He said people just have short memories.

Interviewed by Pablo McKinney for the late evening program, “McKinney”, on Color Visión, the specialist recommended everyone who has two vaccines to go immediately to get the third dose against Covid-19 because “we have crowds, we have Christmas, schools open and children that have not been vaccinated.

Dr. Yunen stressed that those with the highest risk of catching the Omicron variant are those that have not been vaccinated, whether they have had Covid before or not.

He said that children should be vaccinated and mentioned the Sinovac vaccine that is available in the country is already approved for children vaccinating. He said the only observation made by the Latin American Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases is that in Chile, Argentina, El Salvador and Uruguay, they should have started vaccinating children from three years of age instead of from six years of age. In the Dominican Republic, the government approved vaccinating children from six years of age with the Sinovac vaccine, but the program has not yet begun. It is scheduled to start in January 2022.

Dr. Yunen attributed to the large number of people already having the three vaccines the reason the virus curve has flattened despite the entry of the Delta variant. In his opinion, the three vaccines are effective enough to stop Omicron. Nevertheless, he described Omicron as very dangerous because it has 32 mutations of interest in the spike protein.

Yunén urged the government begin sequencing the viruses in the country to determine the variants that are circulating here. He said the equipment to do so is already here in both the public and private sectors. “We are going to have to identify the variants quickly, especially when we have a neighboring country (Haiti) with less than 1% vaccination,” said the specialist, adding that the variants emerge when there is little vaccination and also when there are many immunosuppressed people, in whom the virus can last a long time and make mutations of variants of concern.

He said what happens in the Dominican Republic affects Haiti and what happens in Haiti affects the Dominican Republic, especially given the hundreds of thousands of Haitians that are constantly migrating.

Dr. Yunen stressed the importance of everybody getting vaccinated. He says that as long as there is a high rate of unvaccinated people, the virus will continue to circulate and the viral load will be higher than normal.

“We want to end the virus but the way to do so is using masks, avoiding crowds. Christmas is coming, now there is a low positivity rate, unvaccinated children, people here on vacation. What is coming in January is going to be interesting,” warned Yunén.

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El Caribe

20 December 2021