The ‘super mutant’ Omicron strain is 4.2 times more transmissible in its early stages than the Delta variant of the coronavirus, a new Japanese study has found.
The Omicron strain has been discovered in South Africa and has had a record-breaking number of mutations. Since then, both the WHO and other medical experts around the world have expressed concerns about the potential spread and resistance to current vaccines.
The new research, which was presented at a meeting of Japan’s health ministry’s advisory panel on Wednesday, appears to be another confirmation of those fears.
“The omicron variant transmits more, and escapes immunity built naturally and through vaccines more,”Hiroshi Nishura, Kyoto University’s professor of environmental and health sciences, spoke during the meeting.
Nishiura, who specializes in mathematical modeling of infectious diseases, had analyzed data that came from South Africa’s Gauteng province as of November 26.
His model has shown that in the early phase of the Omicron outbreak the effective reproduction number – the average number of people who got infected from a single carrier – surpassed the R-number of the Delta variant by 4.2 times.
While South Africa has seen a relatively small number of Omicron cases, it rose to close to 20,000 in the first 24 hours after Omicron emerged. However, observations by the WHO have suggested that the mutated strain didn’t make the disease harsher, with the majority of its receded cases being mild or moderate.
Nishiura’s study hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed and published in a scientific journal. However, Takaji Wakita, the head of advisory board Takaji Wakita was able to draw some conclusions that led him to recommend Japanese health authorities “need to get prepared for a domestic Omicron outbreak.”
The new Omicron-specific variant has already been addressed by vaccine manufacturers, who have taken immediate action to upgrade their jabs. Pfizer indicated that they plan to present their Omicron-specific candidate in March to the US regulator. Moderna hopes to receive an updated vaccine in the next 60 to 90 day.