Washington: Top United States scientist Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that according to early indications, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was not worse than prior strains, and was possibly milder, though with a note of caution that it would take weeks to judge its severity.
President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, Fauci broke down the knowns and unknowns about Omicron into three major areas — transmissibility, how well it evades immunity from prior infection and vaccines, and severity of illness.
The new variant is “clearly highly transmissible,” very likely more so than Delta, the current dominant global strain, Fauci was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.
According to accumulated epidemiological data from around the globe, re-infections are higher with Omicron and it is likely better at evading immunity from vaccination.
Long-time director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Fauci, said lab experiment results that tested the potency of antibodies from current vaccines against Omicron should come in the “next few days to a week.”
On the severity, “it almost certainly is not more severe than Delta,” Fauci said.
“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 hospitalizations seems to be less than with Delta,” Fauci was quoted as saying by the agency.
Fauci hoped a more transmissible virus that doesn’t cause more severe illness and doesn’t lead to a hospitalisation surge and deaths was the “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,” the scientist added.
“I don’t think that worst-case scenario is going to come about, but you never know,” he said.
The Omicron variant has now been found in at least 38 countries across the world.