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Omicron variant does appear to be more transmissible than Delta - Prof Mahdi

2 December 2021 7:52 AM
Tags:
Omicron
Covid-19 Omicron variant
Omicron COVID-19 variant

Refilwe Moloto speaks to Professor Shabir Mahdi, Dean of the Wits Faculty of Health Sciences and Professor of Vaccinology.
  • Omicron Covid-19 variant does appear to be more transmissible says vaccinologist Prof Shabir Mahdi
  • Currently, symptoms appear mild he says but it is too early to assess its virulence
  • Mahdi believes that 90% of cases that end up in hospital will be those who have not been previously infected and who remain unvaccinated

Copyright: phonlamaiphoto /123rf

How much more transmissible and how much more virulent is the new Covid-19 variant Omicron?

When it comes to transmissibility all indications are that Omicron is probably as if not more transmissible than the Delta variant.

Prof Shabir Mahdi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

The wave in Gauteng is seeing a much steeper incline in the current trajectory compared to what we observed during the course of the first three waves - so it does appear to be more transmissible.

Prof Shabir Mahdi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

In terms of virulence, that remains to be seen as yet. The majority of cases are presenting as a mild illness but again that is largely due to it starting off in the younger age group and they are generally not as at risk of developing severe disease.

Prof Shabir Mahdi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

He says however that there is another co-variant - something that would influence the trajectory of the disease. The new variant trajectory is being observed against a backdrop of a large proportion of the South African population having been previously infected with the virus, he notes.

All indications show that 75% of people in Gauteng have been infected with the virus during the course of the first three waves.

Prof Shabir Mahdi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

He says that statistic, together with the vaccine rollout, resulting in a situation where people have developed reasonably good immunity at least against severe disease and death.

While there will still be breakthrough infections due to Omicron's multiple mutations, the population's previous immunity from past infection and vaccinations will help stave off severe disease and death to a large extent he suggests.

The South African experience will be one in which we see more cases than we have ever identified before. I wouldn't be surprised if we go above 25 - 30,000 cases per day once the virus has spread throughout the country. But we will probably see an unhinging of the case rate and the death rate.

Prof Shabir Mahdi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

So it is more likely that we will see a lower percentage of these cases ending up in hospital or dying.

Prof Shabir Mahdi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

People who have not been previously infected by the virus and who remain unvaccinated are going to account for probably 90% of the cases that end up in hospital and end up dying of Covid-19.

Prof Shabir Mahdi, Vaccinologist - University of the Witwatersrand

Even better protection for those who have been previously infected and then vaccinated - it gives one 'supernormal protections', he adds.

He encourages over 60s and the immune compromised to get booster shots when available.




2 December 2021 7:52 AM
Tags:
Omicron
Covid-19 Omicron variant
Omicron COVID-19 variant

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