Omicron less severe even in unvaccinated population: Study

In earlier waves, 16 per cent of infected population were hospitalized or died, but in Omicron only 8 percent patients suffered hospitalization or death

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The study, conducted in South Africa, found 25 percent drop in severe hospitalization or death cases with Omicron when compared with Delta variant.

A latest study shows that people who are still unvaccinated, but infected with Omicron, are less likely to fall seriously ill, require hospitalization or die compared to the earlier variants of COVID-19.

The National Institute of Communicable Diseases in the Western Cape region, South Africa, compared 11,609 patients from the first three COVID-19 waves with 5,144 Omicron patients. In case of earlier waves, 16 per cent were hospitalized or died within 14 days of testing positive. In comparison, only 8 percent Omicron patients suffered hospitalization or death. “After adjusting for age, sex, comorbidities and sub-district there was a substantially reduced hazard of death in wave four compared to wave three,” the study said.

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The study found 25 percent drop in severe hospitalization or death cases with Omicron when compared with Delta variant, which was responsible for the second wave. There are several studies to corroborate the theory that Omicron is less severe than Delta. The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) too stated that Omicron poses a “substantially reduced risk” of serious illness.

Scientists aren’t sure yet if mild symptoms are because of better vaccine coverage or because they already had COVID. It is also possible that Omicron is mild in nature.

The study has not been peer reviewed so far, but researchers say about 25% reduction in cases is because of the mild nature of the virus. Notably, only 27 percent of South Africa’s population is fully vaccinated so far.

“In the Omicron-driven wave, severe COVID-19 outcomes were reduced mostly due to protection conferred by prior infection and/or vaccination, but intrinsically reduced virulence may account for an approximately 25 percent reduced risk of severe hospitalization or death compared to Delta,” researchers said.