South African Study Suggests Omicron Less Severe Even for Unvaccinated
By Staff, Agencies
Unvaccinated people infected with the omicron variant of COVID may be less prone to severe illness and requiring hospital care or dying, a South African study showed on Friday.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, was done by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases [NICD] in the Western Cape region. It compared about 11,600 patients from the first three COVID waves with about 5,100 from the omicron-driven wave.
“After adjusting for age, sex, comorbidities and sub-district there was a substantially reduced hazard of death in wave four compared to wave three,” the study said.
Omicron globally tended to cause less severe disease, and proportionally fewer hospital admissions and deaths, than previous variants, Reuters reported.
Scientists are trying to determine whether this is due to higher immunity rates, or if omicron is inherently less deadly.
The study concluded that about a quarter of the reduced risk of severe disease with omicron was attributable to characteristics of the virus itself.
"In the omicron-driven wave, severe Covid-19 outcomes were reduced mostly due to protection conferred by prior infection and/or vaccination, but intrinsically reduced virulence may account for an approximately 25% reduced risk of severe hospitalization or death compared to delta," the study said.
The World Health Organization, however, believes that omicron is still a risk for those unvaccinated.
"While omicron causes less severe disease than delta, it remains a dangerous virus – particularly for those who are unvaccinated," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press conference.
The "overwhelming majority" of people admitted to hospitals are unvaccinated, he added.