Omicron is spreading fast. That’s alarming, even if it’s mild
The Omicron variant of coronavirus is spreading quickly in several countries, but it’s still not clear how severe the new variant is – although most diagnosed cases have been mild.
That could be reassuring. But if Omicron spreads more easily than Delta and previous variants, evades the protection offered by vaccines and by previous infection, and ends up infecting more people, that could mean more people will end up in the hospital and more people could die.
“What we now know about Omicron is that … it’s spreading at a phenomenal rate, something that we’ve never seen before. It’s doubling every two to three days in infections,” UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Britain’s Sky News on Monday. “That means we’re facing a tidal wave of infection. We’re once again in a race between the vaccine and the virus.”
A study out this week from researchers at Oxford University adds to evidence that two of the main vaccines deployed against Covid-19 – from AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech – don’t protect people as well against the Omicron variant.
“Our findings show that vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease with the Omicron variant is significantly lower than with the Delta variant,” the researchers wrote.
However, several recent studies have also shown that a booster dose can hold up – to some extent – against the variant.
“Although two doses of the vaccine may still offer protection against severe disease caused by the Omicron strain, it’s clear from these preliminary data that protection is improved with a third dose of our vaccine,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
What’s not clear is what Omicron will do to more vulnerable people who are unlikely to be among the first infected but who will eventually see the virus come their way. This might include the elderly, people with varying levels of weakened immune systems, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
“This virus will eventually seek out and land on the people that are the most susceptible, and those are the ones that have not been vaccinated, A, and also the ones that have not been boosted. It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when,” Los Angeles internal medicine specialist Dr. Jorge Rodriguez told CNN.———————————————————————— —Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful, or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites, or repeats previous comments will be removed.
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While only a few Omicron cases have been identified in the US, there is little reason to think it won’t spread in the US as it has elsewhere.