The risk of hospitalization among adults infected with the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is up to 29 percent lower compared to earlier variants of the virus, according to a new study.
The first real-world analysis, based on 78,000 Omicron cases in South Africa, found that the strain causes less severe disease, with 29 percent fewer hospitalizations compared to the original Wuhan variant and 23 percent fewer than Delta, according to The Telegraph.
The findings of the study, conducted by South Africa’s largest private health insurer, Discovery Health, are preliminary and have not been peer-reviewed, however, they do line up with other early data about omicron’s behavior.
Professor Robert Dingwall, a medical sociologist at Nottingham Trent University who has also advised the UK government on COVID, said the data proves the panic about Omicron is “absurd.”
“The Omicron situation seems to be increasingly absurd. There is obviously a lot of snobbery about South African science and medicine but their top people are as good as any you would find in a more universally developed country,” he told The Telegraph.
“They clearly don’t feel that the elite panic over here is justified, even allowing for the demographic differences in vulnerability – which are probably more than canceled by the higher vaccination rate.
“My gut feeling is that omicron is very much like the sort of flu pandemic we planned for – a lot of sickness absence from work in a short period, which will create difficulties for public services and economic activity, but not of such a severity as to be a big problem for the NHS and the funeral business.”
The encouraging data on hospitalizations comes even despite the South African study also showing that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offers less defense against Omicron.
People who received two doses of the vaccine appeared to have just 33 percent protection against infection, down from 80 percent previously.
The study did not look at booster shots, which are not yet prevalent in South Africa but jibes with other data that indicates a third jab improves protection.
Still, some experts cautioned that it’s too soon to let down our guard.
Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, noted that there is still a large degree of uncertainty about Omicron.
“It is important to avoid inferring too much right now from any national scenario. For example, the narrative around South Africa is that Omicron may be much milder, whereas reports out of Denmark broadly suggests the opposite,” Head told Reuters.
Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that more useful information will emerge when Omicron reaches broader populations.
“To date, omicron has disproportionately infected young adults — people who probably have more social contacts and are more likely to attend large gatherings,” Dowdy told the Associated Press.
Young adults may be more likely to be sick without knowing it, have more intense exposures and experience milder disease, he said.
The real-world analysis also comes after Gov. Kathy Hochul was criticized for imposing a state-wide indoor mask mandate — despite the Big Apple having some of the lowest rates of COVID-19 and highest rates of vaccination in the nation.
With Post wires