Omicron as serious as other COVID variants – large American study
Omicron as serious as other COVID variants – large American study

Omicron as serious as other COVID variants – large American study

A woman takes a coronavirus (COVID-19) test at a pop-up test site as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Manhattan, New York City, USA, December 27, 2021. REUTERS / Jeenah Moon

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May 5 (Reuters) – The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV2 virus is in itself as serious as previous variants, according to a pre-printed version of a major US examination there are assumptions in other studies that it was more transmissible but less serious.

The results, which estimated Omicron’s severity after taking into account the effect of vaccines, should reinforce the importance of inoculations and booster shots, experts said. Vaccines helped keep hospitalizations and deaths relatively low during the Omicron rise compared to previous variants.

The study, which is under peer review at the Nature Portfolio, was published in Research Square on 2 May. The authors from Massachusetts General Hospital, Minerva University and Harvard Medical School declined to comment until the peer review is completed.

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“We found that the risk of hospitalization and mortality was almost identical” between the Omicron era and times in the last two years when different variants were dominant, the researchers said in their report.

The new study, based on records of 130,000 COVID patients in Massachusetts, is unique and “pretty strong,” said Dr. Arjun Venkatesh of the Yale School of Medicine and the Yale Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, who was not involved in the research.

Instead of just looking at the number of deaths and hospitalizations that previous studies have done, it accounted for patients’ vaccination status and medical risk factors and compared similar groups of people, Venkatesh said.

The authors cited potential limitations in their report, including the possibility that the analysis underestimated the number of vaccinated patients in recent COVID waves and the total number of infections because it excluded patients who performed rapid home tests.

The study did not take into account treatments that patients may have received, such as monoclonal antibodies or antiviral drugs, “known to reduce hospitalizations,” Venkatesh noted. “It is possible that if we did not have these treatments available today, Omicron would be even worse.”

Countries around the world have found that a significant percentage of their citizens were not willing to get a COVID vaccine, even during waves of seemingly deadly variants.

When the Omicron variant was first identified in late 2021, public health authorities said it caused much milder symptoms in the vast majority of infected people. This may have encouraged the vaccine to hesitate that they had less need for a shot.

But Venkatesh said the new pre-print adds evidence that vaccines helped spare people from the worst consequences of Omicron.

“Do not make the mistake of thinking that vaccines and boosters are not important,” he said.

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Reporting by Sayantani Ghosh in Singapore and Nancy Lapid in New York; Edited by Robert Birsel and David Gregorio

Our standards: Thomson Reuters trust principles.

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