Recent data suggests that the Omicron poses a 70% lower risk of hospitalization than the delta variant.
Since its discovery in November of this year, the Omicron variant has managed to spread at a record speed. The heavily mutated strain has caused a significant increase in COVID-19 cases and will likely become the dominant strain worldwide. As a result, multiple research projects are currently underway to assess the variant’s threat to public health. Although experts claim that Omicron causes mild symptoms, researchers are still unsure of its severity and how it compares to the more contagious Delta variant. Now, two new preliminary studies and a U.K. government study has provided further evidence on the strain’s severity.
Recently, researchers at the University of Edinburgh conducted a Scotland-wide study looking at PCR, genome sequencing, hospitalization, vaccination, and mortality data. They collected estimates of Omicron and Delta cases among the population and the difference in health outcomes among the two. According to results, a total of 15 hospitalizations occurred with Omicron and 856 with Delta. Thus, suggesting a two-third reduction in the risk of hospitalization.
Too Early for Accurate Predictions
Another research, based out of South Africa, assessed over 161,000 COVID-19 cases reported between 1st October and 6th December. According to the study, Omicron infections had an 80% lower risk of hospitalization than those with Delta infections. However, the risk of severe disease upon hospitalization remained similar among the two.
Recently, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) also published its findings on Omicron hospitalization and vaccine analysis. The updated analysis was based on 132 Omicron cases admitted to or transferred from emergency departments. Results showed a 31-45% reduction in emergency department visits compared to Delta, and a 50-70% lower risk of hospital admission among Omicron cases. Moreover, doubly vaccinated people had the highest rate of Omicron infection.
The results provide evidence for the efficacy of booster doses. However, all these results are preliminary as they have yet to undergo a peer review. Moreover, since a small number of Omicron cases are currently in hospitals, the results do not provide an accurate analysis. Therefore, as we await further data, the best step is to get vaccinated and continue practising social distancing protocols.
Sheikh, A., Kerr, S., Woolhouse, M., McMenamin, J., & Robertson, C. (2021). Severity of Omicron variant of concern and vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease: national cohort with nested test negative design study in Scotland.
Wolter, Nicole, et al. “Early Assessment of the Clinical Severity of the SARS-COV-2 Omicron Variant in South Africa.” 2021, doi:10.1101/2021.12.21.21268116.