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Omicron variant leads to less severe COVID-19 symptoms — even though it can evade vaccines

A new study suggests the omicron variant may be more resistant to the COVID-19 vaccines

Photo of the coronavirus.
A photo of the virus that causes COVID-19. The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus appears to cause less severe COVID-19 symptoms than early variants of the virus, but it may be more resistant to a two-dose vaccine, according to the first major study on the variant.
NIAID-RML via Associated Press

The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus appears to cause less severe COVID-19 symptoms than early variants of the virus, but it may be more resistant to a two-dose vaccine, according to the first major study on the variant.

Per The Washington Post, a new study from Discovery Health in South Africa found the risk of hospitalization from the omicron variant was 29% lower than the initial pandemic wave of infections from March 2020.

  • The researchers — who work for South Africa’s largest health insurance company — found this after reviewing 211,000 positive COVID-19 cases, with 78,000 of those being from the omicron variant, according to The Washington Post.

The study discovered that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine only provided 33% protection against infection from the omicron variant, The Washington Post reports.

  • But it provided 77% protection against hospitalization.
  • Children may have a 20% higher risk of hospitalization from the omicron variant, too. Symptoms for children include sore throat, nasal congestion and fever for a few days.

This study comes shortly after new study from researchers at the University of Oxford found that the two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were less effective against stopping the variant compared to previous COVID-19 variants.

Researchers said a booster should improve immunity, though. Gavin Screaton, head of Oxford University’s Medical Sciences Division and lead author of the paper, said this is evidence that booster shots are needed to protect people.

  • “Whilst there is no evidence for increased risk of severe disease, or death, from the virus amongst vaccinated populations, we must remain cautious, as greater case numbers will still place a considerable burden on health care systems,” he said, per CNBC.