Although it isn’t clear whether the Omicron variant can lead to more severe COVID-19 symptoms, the U.N. health organization stated on Dec. 8 that more data is needed to assess the severity of the disease or whether its mutations can breach vaccines or natural immunity.
“Even if the severity is equal or potentially even lower than for Delta variant, it is expected that hospitalizations will increase if more people become infected and that there will be a time lag between an increase in the incidence of cases and an increase in the incidence of deaths,” the report reads.
According to the WHO, the number of reported COVID-19 cases in South Africa doubled on Dec. 5 to more than 62,000. Large increases in the virus have been reported in nearby Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Lesotho, according to the agency.
COVID-19 is the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
“Preliminary analysis suggests that the mutations present in the Omicron variant may reduce the neutralizing activity of antibodies resulting in reduced protection from natural immunity,” the report reads, noting that it isn’t yet clear whether “mutations present on the Omicron variant may result in reduced protection from vaccine-derived immunity and data on vaccine effectiveness, including the use of additional vaccination doses.”
It isn’t clear whether any deaths have been associated with the Omicron variant anywhere in the world. The strain has been reported in at least 19 U.S. states.
The report comes as South African scientists released a report this week stating that the Omicron variant can partially evade the protection from two doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The scientists said data show the two-dose regimen “may not be sufficient to protect against infection with the Omicron variant.”
Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla appeared to counter the new findings by saying that a booster dose of the vaccine is needed as a bulwark against the Omicron 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,” Bourla said in a statement. “Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two-dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
In November, when the WHO named the variant, it drew controversy for its decision and rationale to skip over the Greek alphabet letter “Xi,” explaining that because Xi is a common Chinese surname, it didn’t want to name the variant as such so as to not offend anyone. However, critics have accused the U.N. health body of trying to placate the Chinese Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping.