London — Preliminary data suggests that people are 50 percent to 70 percent less likely to be hospitalized with the omicron variant of the coronavirus. A finding one researcher has called “a small ray of sunlight.”
The findings from the U.K. Health Security Agency points to emerging evidence that omicron produces a milder illness than the other variants. Still, scientists caution that omicron spreads much faster and is better at evading vaccines.
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A person with omicron is calculated to be 31% to 45% less likely to go to a hospital emergency than a person with delta. The agency added. “and 50 to 70% less likely to be admitted to hospital.”
Still, the analysis is “preliminary and highly uncertain” due to the small number of omicron patients in hospitals as most patients are of younger age groups.
The suggestion that omicron may cause less severe disease than delta is similar to lab data; suggesting omicron does not grow as well in cells derived from lungs. These findings are similar to the data from South Africa.
Yet there are still unknowns, such as the relative severity of omicron in someone who’s been vaccinated; compared with someone who’s had COVID-19 before or someone who is unvaccinated and has not had the disease. So vaccination remains crucial.
“The bottom line is to get immunized, and if somebody is already immunized, to get a booster,” said an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.