Salim Abdul Karim is a South African epidemiologist who specializes in infectious diseases and especially HIV. He chaired the Interim Advisory Committee on Govt-19 in South Africa until March 2021. As a reference figure in the scientific landscape of South Africa, he reviews the recent emergence of the Omicron variant.
In three weeks, South Africa has dropped from 200 to 300 new Govt-19 cases a day to more than 15,000. Is the Omigron variant more contagious than others?
Omicron immediately worried me because it has mutations that allow it to spread rapidly and bypass antibody immunity. We expected it to be highly contagious, and our comparisons show that the number of infections actually doubles over previous waves.
Does being vaccinated or already having Covit-19 protect against this variant?
We see many people suffering from Govt-19 disease in the past. We have the system to identify these phenomena, and we estimate that the relapse rate with Omicron is 2.4 times higher than previous waves, so those already suffering from Govit-19 disease do not seem to be facing Omicron. As for vaccines, we know they are not 100% effective, and we have seen that those who are vaccinated also have some infections, but it is too early to tell if this happens more often than we can. Laboratory studies are also underway to find out how well antibodies kill this variant. [Des résultats préliminaires publiés mercredi 8 décembre montrent un affaiblissement de la protection immunitaire offerte par les vaccins contre ce variant après deux doses, mais la vaccination semble mieux protéger avec trois doses.]
First clinical observations Omicron often seems to cause mild infections. What do you think?
I am very reluctant to make any decision regarding the severity of the infections. Severe patterns in patients usually appear two to four weeks after the onset of the wave. At this time, we see most mild infections, but that was to be expected. Omigron is only exposed for a fortnight. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. At this point, doctors tell me that patients are showing the same medical profile as previous infections. This does not mean that there is no red flag at this stage, but that Omigron only causes mild infections.
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