Home Social gathering Case data and vaccine news mark small wins in battle for Omicron

Case data and vaccine news mark small wins in battle for Omicron


  • AstraZeneca and Novavax say their shots protect Omicron
  • UK data suggests fewer hospitalizations than Delta’s
  • WHO urged caution before drawing firm conclusions
  • Omicron has spread quickly, many countries impose new restrictions

LONDON, Dec.23 (Reuters) – Two vaccine makers said their injections offered protection against Omicron, as UK data suggested it could cause proportionally fewer hospitalizations than the Delta coronavirus variant, confirming findings drawn in South Africa.

Coronavirus infections have skyrocketed across much of the world as the highly infectious Omicron spread, triggering new brakes in many countries. World Health Organization officials, however, said it was too early to draw firm conclusions about its virulence.

First identified last month in southern Africa and Hong Kong, the variant is quickly becoming dominant across much of western Europe, including Britain, where daily infections have exceeded 100,000.

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Preliminary data had indicated that Omicron was more resistant to vaccines developed before its emergence. But the increase in hospitalizations and deaths in Britain since Omicron’s arrival has been more gradual, researchers said.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh who followed 22,205 patients infected with Omicron said on Wednesday evening that the number of patients who needed to be hospitalized was 68% lower than they expected, based on the rate of Delta patients.

Researchers at Imperial College London said they had seen evidence over the past two weeks of a 40% to 45% reduction in the risk of hospitalization for Omicron compared to Delta. Read more

Raghib Ali, senior clinical research associate at Cambridge University, said scientists have warned that with increasing cases in the UK, even a small proportion of hospitalizations could overwhelm the healthcare system.

However, the UK data was encouraging and “could help justify the government’s decision not to extend restrictions on social gatherings at Christmas in England,” he said.

AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Thursday that a three-treatment dose of its COVID-19 vaccine offered protection against the variant, citing data from a laboratory study at the University of Oxford.

The study results, which have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, match those of competitors Pfizer-BioNTech (PFE.N), (22UAy.DE) and Moderna (MRNA.O) .

The study on AstraZeneca’s vaccine, Vaxzevria, showed that after a three-dose cycle, neutralization levels against Omicron were broadly similar to those against Delta after two doses.

Hours earlier, Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) said initial data showed its vaccine – which is cleared for use this week by European Union regulators and the WHO to learn more but has not yet approved by the United States – also generated an immune response against Omicron.


As financial markets welcomed signs that Omicron may be less onerous than expected, global equities extended their rally on Thursday as bonds and safe-haven currencies eased. Read more

Beyond Western Europe, the Delta variant continued to spread.

The coronavirus death toll in Russia, where officials said this week only detected 41 Omicron cases, topped 600,000 on Thursday, Reuters calculations based on official data showed after a wave Delta-related infections. Read more

Only the United States and Brazil have recorded more deaths from coronaviruses.

The Chinese city of Xian, where no case of Omicron has been detected, has placed its 13 million residents in lockdown as the daily number of nationally transmitted COVID-19 infections increases for the sixth day in a row . Read more .

UK hospitalization data was supported by a study released on Wednesday by the South African National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD). Read more

But NICD researchers have included several caveats.

“It is difficult to disentangle the relative contribution of the high levels of immunity of the previous population versus lower intrinsic virulence at the lower severity of disease observed,” they wrote.

WHO COVID-19 technical officer Maria van Kerkhove also said the UN agency did not have enough data to draw firm conclusions. The data on Omicron was still “messy,” she said at a briefing in Geneva on Wednesday.

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Reports from Reuters offices around the world; Writing by John Stonestreet; Editing by Catherine Evans and Edmund Blair

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