What Early Dates Show – NBC Chicago – Post World

While there is still much to be seen about the new variant of Omicron and its impact on the coronavirus pandemic, early studies are showing signs of how current COVID vaccines and booster vaccines are working against the strain.

Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday there is increased confidence that Omicron will “likely spread rapidly” and even faster than the Delta variant behind the recent surge in the US, but that vaccines will continue with at least some protection.

“Early data suggests this is likely, you know, maybe two to two and a half times as easy to spread and as contagious as the Delta variant,” she said.

According to an analysis Tuesday of data from South Africa, where omicron is driving a surge in infections, the variant not only appears to spread more easily from person to person, but is also better at bypassing vaccines while causing less serious illness.

The White House insisted on Wednesday that a lockdown is not required as vaccines are widely available and appear to offer protection against the worst effects of the virus.

Arwady said the city continues to push for vaccinations and booster shots for the same reason, although breakthrough infections are expected to rise and there are increased concerns about the unvaccinated.

“We currently think that vaccines will very likely continue to protect against serious diseases, but as there are likely to be more transmissions, it will be harder to control efforts,” she said. “And it puts everyone at risk even more.”

So far, the Pfizer vaccine appears to offer less protection against infection by the variant, but still offer good protection against hospitalization, according to analysis of data from South Africa, where the new variant is driving an increase in infections.

According to the data, a two-dose Pfizer BioNTech vaccination appeared to offer only 33% protection against infection during the current wave of omicrones in South Africa, but 70% protection against hospitalization, according to analysis by Discovery Health, South Africa’s largest private health insurer, and the South African Medical Research Council.

Still, the 33% represents a significant decrease from the 80% protection against infection that was offered in previous periods.

The researchers say it’s encouraging that the study shows that people fully vaccinated with Pfizer have 70% protection from hospitalization during the omicron surge. That’s still a drop from the 93% protection seen in South Africa’s delta-driven wave.

Arwady said she was “fairly confident” that the variant will lead to more breakthrough cases and reinfections in those who have already had COVID, but the severity of these cases remains unclear, although early breakthrough cases in the Midwest showed mild symptoms, if any.

“We think based on what we see now, Omicron is unlikely to be more severe than Delta, which is very, very good news, but I am still skeptical of claims that there is a significantly lesser degree of severity” said Arwady. “So great news, it doesn’t look like it will make people any sicker than what we have now, but I know there are a lot of people out there who feel like this really doesn’t make people sick at all, and that’s still not something that my team believes the data show. “

The data from South Africa shows that while the number of cases is increasing, hospital admissions are not increasing at the same rate, leading scientists to believe that the risk of hospitalization with Omicron may be lower than with Delta or earlier variants. According to the analysis, adult hospital admissions diagnosed with COVID-19 are 29% lower than in the wave South Africa experienced in mid-2020 after vaccination status was adjusted.

But World Health Organization’s COVID-19 technical director Maria Van Kerkhove said Wednesday that increased transmission will lead to increased hospital stays, putting a strain on health systems, some of which will fail.

“Omicron is expanding at a rate that we have not seen in any previous variant. We are concerned that people are dismissing Omicron as mild, ”said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We have surely learned by now that we underestimate this virus at our own risk.”

For unvaccinated populations, especially those most susceptible to COVID, Arwady expects “accelerated transmission and then an increasing number of hospital admissions for serious illnesses”.

While Omicron proves to be more lenient than Delta overall, it could disarm some of the life-saving tools available and put the immunocompromised and elderly at particular risk if it begins a rapid attack on the United States.

“We know that people infected with Omicron can have the full spectrum of diseases, from asymptomatic infection to mild illness to serious illness and death,” said Van Kerkhove.

And when a dueling rise in delta and omicrones hits, experts fear that hospitals and staff will not be able to withstand the rise.

“Our delta rise continues and is even accelerating. And on top of that, we’re going to add an omicron rise, ”said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who oversees variants for a research collaboration led by Harvard Medical School.

“This is alarming because our hospitals are already filling up. Staff are fatigued, which leaves limited capacity for the potential wiping out of COVID-19 cases by an omicron wave superimposed on a delta surge.



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