The World Health Organization said early data indicates that Omicron can easily infect people who have been infected earlier or vaccinated.
“Emerging data from South Africa suggests increased risk of re-infection with Omicron”World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters, adding that“There is also evidence that Omicron causes milder disease than Delta”.
Tedros stressed that more data was needed before drawing firm conclusions, and urged countries around the world to step up their surveillance to help provide a clearer picture of Omicron’s behavior.
The encouraging assessments came as global concern grew over the heavily mutated variant, which has forced dozens of countries to reimpose border restrictions and raised the possibility of a return to economically punitive lockdowns.
Even if it turns out that Omicron causes less severe illness, Tedros warned against loosening vigilance against the virus. “Any complacency now will cost lives”, he warned.
The scientific chief of the WHO, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan also returned to preliminary studies published in recent days which seem to show that the variant makes the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech less effective and called for the greatest caution in interpreting them.
“There is a wide variation in the reduction in the effectiveness of antibodies ranging from 4 to 5 times less to 40 times less in these different studies”, which are limited to studying the effect on the only antibodies “When we know that the immune system is much more complex”, she said before adding: “It is premature to conclude that the reduction in the neutralizing activity of the antibodies should result in a significant decrease in the efficacy of the vaccines”.
The new variant was discovered during the last week of November and has now spread to around 57 countries. No deaths have been linked to this variant and patients are recovering without hospitalization, without requiring oxygen therapy.