South African experts said on Friday that there is no evidence that the Omicron coronavirus variant is causing more severe sickness, as government announced preparations to provide vaccination boosters as daily infections hit an all-time high.
Late last month, South Africa notified the globe about Omicron, raising fears that the highly mutated version might spark a fresh wave of worldwide infections.
Covid-19 admissions are increasing rapidly in more than half of the country’s nine provinces, according to hospital statistics, but fatalities are not increasing as quickly, and indications such as the median length of hospital stay are comforting.
Although specialists say more research is needed before a firm conclusion can be reached, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said the signals of severity were encouraging.
“Preliminary data does suggest that while there is increasing rate of hospitalisation … it looks like it is purely because of the numbers rather than as a result of any severity of the variant itself, this Omicron,” he said.
According to data from the National Institute of Communicable Disease, a statewide outbreak associated to variation has been infecting roughly 20,000 individuals per day for the previous three days, with 19,018 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, but just 20 new deaths.
During a third wave fueled by the Delta variety, infections have yet to reach a high of over 26,000 daily cases.
South Africa has vaccinated roughly 38% of adults, which is more than many other African nations but still falls short of the government’s year-end objective. As the rate of inoculations decreased, it recently postponed several vaccine delivery owing to an overstock.
Boosters of Pfizer-vaccine BioNTech’s will be available six months after the second dosage, according to Health Department deputy director-general Nicholas Crisp, with the first persons becoming eligible late this month.
He claimed Johnson & Johnson boosters, which were currently given to health workers in a research programme, will be made available to the general public soon.
Crisp disputed that supplying boosters was a strategy for depleting vaccination supplies.
“We do not need to consume vaccines. They are expensive and we will only use vaccines if there is evidence to do so,” he said.
Boosters should be administered to patients who are immunocompromised or who have received an inactivated Covid-19 vaccine to prevent against losing immunity, according to the World Health Organization. However, given the alarmingly low immunisation rates in many poor countries, it has previously said that delivering initial doses should be prioritised.
Omicron might partially dodge protection from two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, according to a tiny study published this week by a South African research centre, but Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, claim that a three-shot course of their vaccination can neutralise Omicron in the lab.
The South African Medical Research Council’s head, Glenda Gray, said there were much more unvaccinated patients among hospital admissions in South Africa, and the research showed that the Pfizer vaccine was still providing protection.
“We are seeing that this vaccine is maintaining effectiveness. It may be slightly reduced, but we are seeing effectiveness being maintained for hospital admissions and that is very encouraging,” she said.
(Adapted from TheAustralian.com)