A sister virus to Omicron is rapidly replacing the original strain in many parts of the world, but early data suggests its impact is “unlikely to be substantial” according to World Health Organization experts who have provides an update on Omicron’s coronavirus variant during a technical briefing. today.
Dr Boris Pavlin, Senior Field Epidemiologist for the WHO Covid-19 Response Team, said the BA.2 subline outranks Omicron’s original strain, BA.1, “but does not show no reason to be alarmed, for the moment”.
Pavlin said BA.2 had already become the leading cause of Covid-19 infections in the Philippines, Qatar, India and Denmark and was poised to soon become dominant in several other countries.
He said that based on direct clinical comparisons in countries like Denmark, BA.2 infections did not appear to be more severe than those caused by BA.1.
Although more infections may translate into more hospitalizations simply because many more people are getting sick, Pavlin said that in countries where BA.2 has become dominant, “we haven’t seen higher than expected hospitalization bumps”.
However, hospitalizations and deaths are lagging indicators and it may be too early in the BA.2 life cycle to observe these types of increases.
Data from the UK and Denmark show that the vaccines are about as effective against BA.2 as against BA.1.
Omicron is very effective in breaking down vaccine protection and causing disease, although boosters greatly increase this protection.
Vaccine efficacy against symptoms increases from about 13% to about 70% from two to three doses for BA.2 and the original Omicron strain.
Vaccination is more powerful in preventing serious consequences like hospitalization and death, Pavlin noted.
“Vaccination doesn’t do a good job of preventing infection against Omicron, but it continues to prevent serious illness almost as well as it did with Delta, so vaccination remains crucial,” he said. declared.
Pavlin said it was still important to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 to avoid the emergence of new variants.
“The next variant will be more transmissible than Omicron because it has to be to become the next variant,” he said, “It may or may not be more severe.”
He said countries that ease restrictions may have to be prepared to put them back in place if conditions deteriorate again with the virus.
“We can’t assume the worst is behind us,” he said.