Israeli officials said that researchers have not found any severe COVID-19 cases among vaccinated people infected with the Omicron variant.
The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus strain—which was named Omicron by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week—has prompted fresh global panic as a number of countries imposed travel restrictions on southern African countries, where the variant was first located.
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel’s head of public health services, noted that the Omicron infection chance is “very high,” but he said that vaccinated people who have been infected with the variant only became slightly sick, local media reported.
And professor Dror Mevorach, who is in charge of the COVID-19 department at the Hadassah University Hospital Ein Karem, said early reports on those infected with the new variant are encouraging.
“If it continues this way, this might be a relatively mild illness compared to the Delta variant, and paradoxically, if it takes over, it will lead to lower infection rates,” Mevorach remarked, according to the Haaretz news outlet.
Although it’s too early to make a determination, he continued, “at this point, it’s important to collect information, not speculations.”
Despite that, Israel joined a growing list of countries—including the United States—to impose travel restrictions this week. At the same time, top health officials around the world suggested that new lockdowns might be needed to curb the spread of the CCP virus strain, despite not knowing whether Omicron leads to more severe disease.
Over the weekend, the chair of the South African Medical Association, Dr. Angelique Coetzee, that alerted authorities about the newest variant, told media outlets that Omicron patients’ symptoms were “so different and so mild from those I had treated before.”
Coetzee said that a patient at her clinic was “extremely fatigued” for two days with body aches and headaches.
“Symptoms at that stage was very much related to normal viral infection. And because we haven’t seen COVID-19 for the past 8 to 10 weeks, we decided to test,” she continued. “Most of them are seeing very, very mild symptoms and none of them so far have admitted patients to surgeries. We have been able to treat these patients conservatively at home,” the doctor said.
So far, according to Coetzee, the Omicron variant is affecting individuals who are aged 40 or younger. About half of the patients with Omicron symptoms that she treated were vaccinated and the rest were not, she said.
In response to the reports of milder symptoms, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, asserted that there is much that needs to be known about the variant.
During an ABC News appearance on Monday, when asked about whether the variant presents milder symptoms, Fauci stated, “I think that’s premature to say that, George, we just do not know.”
Last week, the WHO courted controversy over its decision to name the variant Omicron, skipping over “Xi,” a letter in the Greek alphabet, saying it didn’t want to cause “offense to any cultural, social, national, regional, professional, or ethnic groups.” Some speculated that the U.N. heath agency was trying to placate the CCP and its leader, Xi Jinping.