Omicron quickly overtaking Delta, efficacy of vaccines reduced: WHO
The Omicron variant of coronavirus is rapidly displacing the Delta variant and reaching global dominance, said a senior official from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday. Although it causes a less severe COVID-19, there is "increasing evidence" that Omicron can escape prior immunity, warned WHO's Infectious Disease Epidemiologist and COVID-19 Technical Lead Maria Van Kerkhove.
Why does this story matter?
- In the week ending January 9, 15 million new COVID-19 cases were recorded worldwide, a 55% rise over the week before.
- The global surge is said to be led by Omicron—a highly mutated coronavirus strain that is very contagious.
- The new variant has spread to over 100 nations in less than three months since it was first detected in South Africa in November 2021.
'Omicron likely present in all countries'
"Omicron has been detected in all countries where we have good sequencing and it's likely to be in all countries around the world," said Kerkhove. She said that Omicron is becoming the most common variant found in infected persons. On Omicron being "milder" than Delta, she said, "It's not a mild disease because people are still being hospitalized for Omicron."
Omicron has significant growth advantage: WHO
"This variant has been shown to have a shorter doubling time as compared to previous variants, with transmission occurring even amongst those vaccinated," the WHO update said. Omicron is also less severe than other variants, it added.
Reduced vaccine efficacy against Omicron
Since December, six studies have found evidence of lower vaccination efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines against the Omicron variant, the WHO update said. Early vaccine efficacy estimates against Omicron may potentially be biased, but preliminary results show overall efficacy has reduced, it said. The booster dose improved efficacy, however, more data is required to find out the magnitude and duration of the protection, it added.
What is the COVID-19 situation in the world?
As of January 12, over 314 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, with over 5.5 million deaths, according to Worldometer. Currently, there are 47 million active cases in the world. In the week ending January 9, the United States reported most new cases (46,10,359), followed by France (15,97,203), the United Kingdom (12,17,258), Italy (10,14,358), and India (6,38,872), according to the WHO.