Study estimates risk of Omicron causing severe disease — Analysis

A non-peer reviewed study from South Africa found that the Omicron Covid-19 variant is less likely than other variants to result in severe diseases and hospitalizations.

Speaking during a news conference on Wednesday, Professor Cheryl Cohen of the country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), said their data supported initial observations that Omicron was less virulent than previous strains. 

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“In South Africa, this is the epidemiology: Omicron is behaving in a way that is less severe,”Cohen was also co-author of the study. 

Research that has yet to be peer-reviewed found that South Africans with Omicron were less likely than those suffering from any other form of the virus to have to go to the hospital between October 1st and November 30. 

It was also found that Omicron patients admitted to hospitals in October and November were 30% less likely than those who had been treated with Delta during April or November.

Researchers began their conclusions by pointing out that the researchers believe higher community immunity (provided by both vaccines as well as prior infection) likely contributed to reducing severity of infection. 

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According to the NICD, 60-70% of South Africans have been infected by Covid-19. “It is difficult to disentangle the relative contribution of high levels of previous population immunity versus intrinsic lower virulence to the observed lower disease severity,”They wrote. 

“Compellingly, together our data really suggest a positive story of a reduced severity of Omicron compared to other variants,” Cohen said in the press conference, adding that surveillance data suggests significantly lower hospitalizations and deaths in South Africa’s current Omicron-driven wave.

Since its discovery in November by researchers in South Africa, the Omicron variant spread throughout the world. This variant has caused an increase in Covid-19-related infections around the globe and may be able to bypass existing vaccines.



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