Omicron severity low? After a week full of speculations and worrying news over the new coronavirus variant, the Indian Health Ministry has finally shared a positive insight. According to the ministry, the severity of COVID-19 due to the Omicron variant is likely to be low.
“Given the fast pace of vaccination in India and high exposure to Delta variant as evidenced by high seropositivity, the severity of the disease is anticipated to be low,” said the ministry. However, it also added that scientific evidence is still evolving for the variant.
The ministry warned citizens about the impending spread of the variant in the country, saying, “…given its (the Omicron strain) characteristics it is likely to spread to more countries, including India.”
According to the statement by the Health Ministry, there is no evidence to suggest that existing vaccines do not work on Omicron. “…vaccine protection is also by antibodies as well as cellular immunity… Hence, vaccines are expected to still offer protection against severe disease and, vaccination with the available vaccines is crucial.”
The statement comes a day after India reported its first two cases of Omicron on December 2. Both the cases were detected in the state of Karnataka. One of the Omicron positive patients is a 66-year-old South African national. After testing positive for COVID-19, they opted for self-isolation at a hotel. Upon testing negative for the disease on November 23, they left India four days later, moving to Dubai. When their sample was later sent for genome sequencing, it was found that their infection was a result of the Omicron variant.
The second patient, a 46-year-old local doctor, has no travel history. Five contacts of this doctor have now tested positive for COVID-19. Read more on that here.
The World Health Organisation had classified Omicron as a variant of concern last week as it has close to 50 mutations, 30 of which are on the spike protein- which is the target of vaccines manufactured against the disease. This has sparked concerns over the variant’s ability to escape the immunity, both from previous infections and vaccines. A preliminary study from South Africa, the country which flagged this new variant first in the world, claims that reinfection is three times like from Omicron, as compared to the Delta Variant. Read more on that here.