Infections with the omicron variant of the coronavirus appear to cause less severe cases of Covid-19 than other variants, especially delta, according to two British studies released on Wednesday. Still, scientists warn that more research is needed and that risks remain.
Preliminary data from Scotland indicate that there was a two-thirds reduction in hospitalization rates among young adults who had received two doses of vaccine and were infected with omicron, compared to those infected with delta in the same group.
This study also claims that a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine provides significant additional protection against severe cases of Covid-19.
Furthermore, england data point out that omicron infection, when compared to delta infection, is associated with a 20% to 25% lower risk of visits to hospitals in general, and a 40% to 45% lower risk of hospitalizations lasting one day or more.
Neil Ferguson, director of the Global Center for Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London, explained that the two studies looked at different groups: data from Scotland refer to patients who were admitted to hospitals, while data from England looked at cases of Covid- 19 which included patients who just had a medical appointment and were allowed to go home, the expert said at a news conference on Wednesday.
The Imperial College study analyzed data from all PCR tests positive for coronavirus in the first two weeks of December in England.
While the results are encouraging, experts still warn that omicron infections are likely to continue to rise and that many will need hospitalization as the strain is more transmissible than previous versions of the virus.
“Although this is a study with a small number of people, this is good news,” said James Naismith, director of Oxford University’s Rosalind Franklin Institute, of the Scotland study. “The two-thirds reduction in hospitalizations of vaccinated young adults compared to delta indicates that omicron will be more moderate for more people,” he said.
Naismith pointed out, however, that omicron is still capable of causing serious illness in those vaccinated with two doses. “if [a taxa de transmissão da] omicron continue to double every two days, it can cause many more hospitalizations than the delta among the doubly vaccinated population,” the professor of structural biology told the Science Media Centre.
Penny Ward, Professor of Pharmaceutical Medicine at King’s College London also described the results of the two British studies as good news. She pointed out, however, that with the “extraordinary” spread of this variant, even if a small proportion of infected people need to be admitted, this could become a burden on UK hospitals if infection rates remain.
“It is still important for all of us to maintain care, get tested frequently and receive the booster dose as soon as possible,” she told the Science Media Centre. “If we do that, we can look forward to a happier New Year than at the same time last year.”
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