Omicron could be milder than Delta: WHO chief

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the new coronavirus variant may have a higher risk of re-infection, but the latest research indicates it may be less severe than the delta strain.

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The World Health Organization said preliminary data indicates that the omicron coronavirus variant may more easily re-infect people who already have the virus or have been vaccinated than previous variants, but may also cause disease. could be the reason.

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“Emerging data from South Africa suggests an increased risk of reinfection with Omicron,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Wednesday. “There is also some evidence that Omicron causes milder disease than Delta”.

But he stressed that more data was needed before firm conclusions could be drawn, and urged countries everywhere to step up their monitoring to help provide a clearer picture of how Omicron is behaving. Can you

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The hopeful assessment came as global concern grew over a heavily muted version that forced dozens of countries to reimpose border restrictions and raised the prospect of a return to financially punishing lockdowns.

Even if it turns out that Omicron causes less severe disease, Tedros cautioned against lowering vigilance against the virus. “Any complacency now will cost lives,” he warned.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan agreed, saying that the data so far indicated the variant “is transmitting efficiently, and perhaps more efficiently than the delta version”.

“That doesn’t mean the virus is invincible,” he said. “But it means the virus is more efficient at transmitting between humans. And, therefore, we have to redouble our efforts to break those chains of transmission to protect ourselves in order to protect others. ,

‘More people die’

Even though the new version is less dangerous than many previous versions, if it circulates more rapidly it can still make more people sick, burdening health systems, “and more people dying”. , They said.

WHO experts stressed the importance of vaccination, even if vaccines prove less effective against Omicron, as some data indicate, they are still expected to provide significant protection against serious disease.

WHO lead scientist Soumya Swaminathan cautioned against suffocating reactions in early studies showing that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has reduced efficacy against the new variant.

She pointed out that the studies conducted so far were small and that the reduction in “neutralizing activity” varied dramatically between different studies, ranging from four to five-fold in some experiments to as much as 40-fold in others.

They also only looked at neutralization of antibodies when “the immune system is much more complex than we know”, she said.

“Therefore I think it is too early to conclude that this decreased neutralizing activity will result in a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness. We don’t know that.”

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