The omicron variant is “not the same disease” compared to previous COVID-19 strains, according to John Bell, a professor of medicine at the University of Oxford.

Bell, the U.K. government’s life sciences adviser, told BBC Radio 4 Tuesday that the omicron variant has led to fewer hospitalizations and severe disease so far, which shows the vaccines are still working, according to Bloomberg.

  • “The incidence of severe disease and death from this disease (Covid-19) has basically not changed since we all got vaccinated and that’s really important to remember,” he told the BBC.
  • “The horrific scenes that we saw a year ago — intensive care units being full, lots of people dying prematurely — that is now history in my view and I think we should be reassured that that’s likely to continue.”
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Bell said the omicron variant appears to like a different disease altogether, according to CNBC.

  • “The disease does appear to be less severe, and many people spend a relatively short time in hospital,” Bell said. “They don’t need high-flow oxygen, average length of stay is apparently three days, this is not the same disease as we were seeing a year ago.”

This aligns with some early data and research suggested that the omicron COVID-19 variant leads to less severe symptoms and hospitalizations, as I wrote for the Deseret News. So far, data from South Africa has shown fewer hospitalizations tied to the variant, even though it has shown the power to evade COVID-19 vaccines and antibodies.