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Omicron variant may cause more reinfections, expert says

South African experts said the new omicron variant might reinfect people who had COVID-19 before

People get vaccinated against COVID-19 near Johannesburg, South Africa.
People queue to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at the Lenasia South Hospital, near Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus may cause more reinfections among those who already had COVID-19, according to experts in South Africa.
Shiraaz Mohamed, Associated Press

The omicron variant of the novel coronavirus may cause more reinfections among those who already had COVID-19, according to experts in South Africa.

Scientists around the world are closely monitoring the omicron variant, which emerged as a variant of concern over Thanksgiving weekend, as I wrote for the Deseret News. South African scientists discovered the variant and sounded the alarm to the world, raising panic and concert among experts.

So far, experts said, the COVID-19 vaccines appear to prevent serious illness and hospitalization, according to The Guardian. Previous infection does not appear to stop the virus variant.

  • “We believe that previous infection does not provide protection from Omicron,” said Anne von Gottberg, an expert at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa, according to The Guardian.
  • Based on early research into the omicron variant, von Gottberg said doctors have seen “an increase for Omicron reinfections.”
  • She added: “We believe the number of cases will increase exponentially in all provinces of the country. We believe that vaccines will still, however, protect against severe disease. Vaccines have always held out to protect against serious disease, hospitalizations and death.”

Indeed, experts already told The New York Times that early research into the omicron variant of the coronavirus suggest it “may be more transmissible and better able to evade the body’s immune responses, both to vaccination and to natural infection, than prior versions of the virus.”

  • “We really need to be vigilant about this new variant and preparing for it,” said Jesse Bloom, an evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, per The New York Times.