Covid researchers say that the findings of ongoing research in South Africa doesn’t necessarily indicate that Omicron is intrinsically milder.
Given that there have been several waves of prior infections, the situation seems to get more complicated with each new variant spreading through the population.
The researchers note that, given a 35 percent adult vaccination rate and a population that has already recovered from other Covid variants, it’s hard to estimate Omicron’s ‘True severity.’
In South Africa, cases in the Omicron wave have already begun peaking after three weeks, but deaths haven’t climbed as quickly as in previous waves.
“We believe it might not necessarily just be that Omicron is less virulent, but coverage of vaccination and natural immunity also adding to the protection,” said Joe Phaahla, the country’s health minister.
‘Thus, Omicron enters a South African population with considerably more immunity than any prior variant has encountered,” the researchers wrote, “Enriched among those who would have been at greatest risk for severe outcomes.” The result, they wrote, suggest “The true risk of severe infection will be systematically underestimated.” Darryl Falzarano, a vaccine researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, says that estimating severity becomes harder as time goes on.
“If those people now get infected with Omicron, you would expect severity to be lower Pulling that apart and knowing if it’s truly an Omicron infection” in someone who’s never been infected or vaccinated-makes assessing severity difficult.
The recent report in Discovery Health is complicated by the fact that children under 18 were 20 percent more likely to be admitted to the hospital with Omicron than in the first wave, though much less likely than adults.
It could turn out that Omicron tends to cause milder disease, even in people with no prior immunity, we need to wait for a more thorough investigation.