Dr Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said that the omicron coronavirus variant is “almost certainly” not more severe than the delta variant the US experienced over the summer.
The doctor spoke with AFP, saying the new variant is “clearly highly transmissible” but noted that despite its higher transmissibility it is not more severe than delta.
“There is some suggestion that it might even be less severe, because when you look at some of the cohorts that are being followed in South Africa, the ratio between the number of infections and the number of hospitalisations seems to be less than with delta,” the doctor said.
Dr Fauci said that experiments testing the potency of antibodies from the various vaccines against the omicron variant should be available in the “next few days to a week”.
The doctor said he believes it is “going to take another couple of weeks at least in South Africa”, to see the actual degree of severity of the omicron variant. The variant was first identified by doctors in South Africa.
“As we get more infections throughout the rest of the world, it might take longer to see what's the level of severity,” he said.
Data collected from researchers around the world supports Dr Fauci's claims about the increased infection rate caused by the omicron variant.
The omicron variant has been found in one third of US states as of 5 December. Those states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, according to Reuters.
Many of the cases were found in people who were fully vaccinated, but those individuals reported only mild symptoms.
Dr Fauci said that a more transmissible virus that is less severe and causes fewer hospitalisations was a "best case scenario."
“The worst case scenario is that it is not only highly transmissible, but it also causes severe disease and then you have another wave of infections that are not necessarily blunted by the vaccine or by people's prior infections,” he said.
Thankfully, the doctor said he doesn't “think that worst case scenario is going to come about”, but, he warned, “you never know”.
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