Omicron Is Less Likely To Cause Hospitalization And Develop Into Severe Disease, South African Study Suggests

People who contract the omicron variant are 80% less likely to be hospitalized compared to previous variants and those hospitalized with omicron are at a 70% lower risk of severe disease than delta, according to a new study by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases released Wednesday.

Key Facts

The study was conducted in South Africa between October 1 and November 30 and has not been peer-reviewed.

The study’s authors said high levels of population immunity due to vaccination or “natural infection” are likely to have been a cause behind the lower risk of disease severity compared to people who had been diagnosed with delta between April and November.

They added it is “difficult to disentangle” the effect of high levels of population immunity with “intrinsic lower virulence” when narrowing down the reason for reduced disease severity.

Crucial Quote

Professor Cheryl Cohen of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, one of the study’s authors, said the data “really suggest a positive story of a reduced severity of Omicron compared to other variants,” Reuters reported.

Key Background

Omicron is driving a surge in new cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. The spike has prompted Chicago and Boston to join several cities that require proof of vaccination to enter indoor venues this week, while the National Hockey League will reportedly announce Wednesday its decision to pull out of the 2022 Beijing Olympics after it and the league’s players association agreed to halt the season until December 26 due to soaring Covid cases.

To combat the surge, the Biden Administration said Tuesday it will provide 500 million rapid at-home tests to Americans for free and deploy federal military medical personnel to help hospitals. Public health experts are bracing for a winter surge of cases driven by the omicron variant, which can evade some protection conferred by vaccinations and prior infections, as well as cases linked to the delta variant. Officials caution that they are still relying on preliminary data about the omicron variant’s severity compared with earlier forms of the virus.

Tangent

Some U.S. health experts and the Biden Administration have recommended a booster shot as the best way to increase protection against omicron. In Israel, officials are pursuing a fourth dose. Seniors and healthcare workers there will soon be able to receive a fourth Covid vaccine shot, the country’s Pandemic Expert Committee said Tuesday.

Fauci and Collins painted a stark but realistic picture of the winter ahead, on the heels of a week of coronavirus-related setbacks. Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths rose across much of the country last week, with officials warning of a surge just as millions of Americans — already weary after nearly two years of the pandemic — are expected to travel for Christmas and New Year’s.

On Friday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that coronavirus vaccines for children younger than 5 would be pushed back further into 2022, as the companies modified their trials to include a third dose. On Sunday, New York, one of the country’s early epicenters in the pandemic, reported 22,478 cases.

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I am a Greece-born reporter covering breaking news. Email me at lkim@forbes.com

Source: Omicron Is Less Likely To Cause Hospitalization And Develop Into Severe Disease, South African Study Suggests

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