Mumbai: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Tuesday said that there is no reason to assume that the new variant Omicron of COVID-19 is more severe than the other variants and laid the rest apprehensions about the efficacy of existing vaccines against the new strain.
Michael Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s emergencies director, told AFP in an interview the existing vaccines should protect people who contract Omicron against the worst outcomes of the disease.
“We have highly effective vaccines that have proved effective against all the variants so far, in terms of severe disease and hospitalisation, and there’s no reason to expect that it wouldn’t be so [for Omicron],” the WHO official was quoted as saying.
Ryan added that there currently is no indication to suggest that Omicron, although highly infectious, causes a more severe disease than previous Covid-19 variants such as Delta.
Emphasizing on the need for more research to study the Omicron variant, Ryan said that how threatening it is poised to be can only be determined after studies.
Meanwhile, US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci on Tuesday also said that Omicron is certainly not worse than the previous strains, including Delta.
Underlining the indication by the ratio between the number of infections and the number of hospitalisations in South Africa, the chief medical advisor to the US president said, Omicron is “clearly highly transmissible” but might actually be less severe than Delta.
Fauci, too, said that more epidemiological data from around the world is needed to affirm scientific consensus on this. He added that the results from lab experiments that tested the potency of antibodies from current vaccines against Omicron should come in the next few days to a week.
Meanwhile, researchers in South Africa have found that Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine actually provides less immunity to the Omicron variant than to other major versions of the virus.
In an online presentation of the first reported experiments gauging the effectiveness of the vaccine against the new variant, Alex Sigal, head of research at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban said that the loss of immune protection is “robust, but not complete.”