The Omicron variant is quickly driving a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections in South Africa, the country where the variant was first discovered. But there are early signs showing that the Omicron variant may be no more dangerous than its predecessors, such as the Delta variant. In fact, it might even be less severe.
Doctors in a major hospital complex in Pretoria, one of South Africa’s three capital cities, spotted observed that a trend in which the coronavirus COVID-19 patients infected by the Omicron variant showed less severe symptoms than patients those with previous versions mutations of the virus. This trend has been was backed up by several hospitals in the region, which who were prepared to return to square one of the pandemic but instead have mostly admitted patients for COVID-19- unrelated issues.
Scientists are wary of giving an official statement regarding the severity of Omicron, particularly as countries might need to act early in order to prevent outbreaks in the case of if these early studies being turn out to be erroneous. But multiple early studies showing the same findings should calm anxieties regarding global health. Although an earlier South African study—which has not yet been peer reviewed--–suggested Omicron’s resistance to the Pfizer vaccineation, World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist Michael Ryan suggests otherwise.
"If anything, the direction is towards less severity," Dr. Ryan told AFP news agency. "We have highly effective vaccines that have proved effective against all the variants so far, in terms of severe disease and hospitalization, and there's no reason to expect that it wouldn't be so.” Doctor Dr. Maria D. van Kerkhove, WHO COVID-19 Ttechnical Lleader, WHO, noted that the lowered severity of the virus could be outweighed by the rapid spread of Omicron, for which so health protocols should continue to be followed.
Doctor Dr. Farrah Abdullah, Ddirector of the, Office of Research, at the South African Medical Research Council, released findings in a study last weekend in which he found a lowered number of that a smaller number of recently hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the country needinged intensive care or oxygen tanks. Patients’ average hospital stay was less than three days and less than seven 7 percent of hospitalized cases died from complications, a significant decrease from the 8.5-day average hospital stay and 17 percent mortality rate in among hospitalized patients. However, there are many factors for which to account for in the study, such as South Africa’s lagged vaccination campaign and smaller-than-desirable sample sizes.
Professor Alex Sigal of the early Omicron study by the Africa Health Research Institute is also optimistic about the ability of vaccines to protect individuals against the variant, and even more optimistic regarding the effectiveness of so in the face of booster shots as cases in which the vaccination was combined followed with an previous infection were seen seemed to effectively to neutralize against the variant.
As the most heavily mutated version of the coronavirus, the Omicron was quick to drive concerns over uncontrollable spikes in infections and whether vaccines would continue to work. Early studies are still too inconclusive to draw definite conclusions from, but researchers and health experts are more hopeful than before regarding of a limited impact.