Omicron more transmissible but causes less severe symptoms: WHO

Dec 13, 2021: The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday that the omicron variant was more transmissible than delta strain and reduced the vaccine’s efficacy, but caused less severe symptoms, according to preliminary data.

The Delta variant, which was first identified in India earlier this year, is responsible for most of the world’s corona virus infections. But South Africa’s discovery of Omicron – which has a large number of variations – last month prompted countries around the world to reintroduce domestic restrictions to impose travel bans on South African countries and reduce its spread.

The WHO said Omicron had spread to 63 countries by December 9. Rapid transmission was noted in South Africa, where the delta is low, and in the United Kingdom, where the delta is the strongest.

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But they emphasized that the lack of data meant that it was not possible to say whether Omicron had a transmission rate because it had a lower risk of an immune response, more migration, or a combination of the two.

The WHO said in a technical briefing that preliminary evidence suggests that omicron “causes a reduction in the effectiveness of vaccines against infection and transmission.”

“Given the current available data, it is likely that Omicron will surpass the Delta variant where community transmission takes place,” he added.

Omicron infections have so far caused “mild” illness or asymptomatic cases, but the WHO said the data was insufficient to establish the variant’s clinical severity.

South Africa reported Omicron to the WHO on November 24. Vaccine manufacturers Pfizer/BioNTech last week said three doses of their jabs were still effective against Omicron.

Countries with sufficient vaccine supplies such as Britain and France have encouraged their populations to receive a third “booster” jab to fight Omicron.

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