It’s a glimmer of hope for the United States as the wave of Omicron appears to be milder than originally anticipated, according to preliminary studies published in the UK and South Africa.
Early evidence suggests fewer people are needing hospital treatment than with other variants, with estimates ranging from a 30% to a 70% reduction. But the concern remains that even if Omicron is milder, the sheer number of cases could overwhelm hospitals.
More than 100,000 cases have been reported in the UK in a single day for the first time, and the Omicron variant is accounting for all new COVID cases in the U.S. and 73% of the country’s total cases.
We received good news today in our fight against COVID-19. The FDA granted emergency use authorization of the Pfizer antiviral pill, a promising new treatment option that will significantly reduce hospitalization and death as we battle the more transmissible Omicron variant.
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 22, 2021
Experts say a deeper understanding of the severity of Omicron will help other countries decide how to respond to the virus.
One might say that the UK is early in its Omicron cycle.
So let’s look at South Africa, where the case curve has already started to bend down, and Omicron has been in play for 2 months – the same trend where deaths/cases last Jan was 4%. Today that number is 0.13%! pic.twitter.com/zzK0bNhlZa
— Jay Kotak (@jay_kotakone) December 20, 2021
The BBC reports that a study in Scotland has been tracking coronavirus and the number of people ending up in the hospital. It says that if Omicron behaved the same as Delta, they would expect about 47 people to have been admitted to the hospital already. At the moment there are only 15. The Scottish researchers said they were seeing a roughly two-thirds reduction in the number needing hospital care, but there were very few cases and few at-risk elderly people in the study.
New pre-print from South Africa suggests that, at least among those vaccinated and/or previously infected, Omicron is much less severe than Delta. Will that hold true in the US with an older population? We'll find out in the coming weeks.https://t.co/xvxiIdm2vj
— Dr. Tom Frieden (@DrTomFrieden) December 22, 2021
Meanwhile, another study in South Africa also points to the Omicron wave being milder. It showed people were 70-80% less likely to need hospital treatment, depending on whether Omicron is compared to previous waves, or other variants currently circulating.
…these are projections going forward based on South Africa/UK. Denmark – which is closest model to US – is showing doubling every 1.6 days. With Omicron, based on a limited UK cases, 2 dose vaccine protection past 5 months dropped to 34%; with boosted up to 75% – a big drop… pic.twitter.com/o3on4Nh0gC
— Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) December 14, 2021
The reduction in severity is thought to be a combination of the fundamental properties of the Omicron variant as well as high levels of immunity from vaccinations and previous infections. The study suggests that Omicron’s mutations have made it a milder variant of the virus than Delta’s.
The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, found that people diagnosed with Omicron in South Africa between Oct. 1 and Nov. 30 were 80% less likely to be admitted to hospital than those diagnosed with another variant in the same period pic.twitter.com/UseVNwDerc
— Reuters (@Reuters) December 22, 2021