A leading South African scientist stated that vaccines provide better protection against the Omicron coronavirus variant than previous infection with an earlier coronavirus strain.
“We believe that previous infection does not provide protection from Omicron,” said Anne von Gottberg, a microbiologist at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases at an online briefing organized by the World Health Organization.
Gottberg added that South Africa was seeing an increase in reinfections as a result of the Omicron variant.
“We believe the number of cases will increase exponentially in all provinces of the country,” she says. “We believe that vaccines will still, however, protect against severe disease.”
Initial data revealed Tuesday evening on Channel 12 News shows that the Omicron strain of COVID-19 is not resistant to the booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the data, the vaccine's protection against infection for those who received three doses drops only slightly, to 90% protection against Omicron versus 95% against Delta. At the same time, the protection the vaccine offers this group from serious illness resulting from Omicron is as high as its protection from serious illness caused by Delta.
On the other hand, those recovered from COVID-19 have twice as high a risk of contracting Omicron as they had of contracting Delta, and the transmission rate for Omicron is 1.3 times that of Delta.
In addition, those who are unvaccinated have a 2.4 times higher chance of becoming seriously ill from Omicron than they did from the original COVID-19 virus.