Factsheet: Is omicron milder than other variants?

The Claim: Early data suggested that the Omicron variant appeared to cause less severe infection symptoms and lower rates of hospitalization than previous variants like Delta.
The Verdict: claim verdict

Early data suggested that the Omicron variant appeared to cause less severe infection symptoms and lower rates of hospitalization than previous variants like Delta.

According to the Health Desk Experts, data is clear that the subvariants of Omicron can cause both short and long-term symptoms and challenges, including hospitalization and death. In addition, Omicron is more contagious than previous variants. 

“Omicron subvariants BA.5 and BA.4 are currently spreading around the world. It can be challenging to track the spread of the virus because so many people have some level of immune protection either from infection or vaccination. This makes it harder to understand the isolated effects of one specific variant or subvariant. Further, the increase in the use of at-home antigen tests has led to under-reporting of COVID-19 cases because fewer people are taking PCR tests which are often tracked by local and national health authorities,” said Health Desk Experts.

The Experts said Omicron BA.5 appears to be able to evade some immune systems that have already been infected by or vaccinated against the virus.

“People who have been fully vaccinated and infected may even be reinfected several times, and increase their risk of poor health outcomes with each infection,” they said.

They said the ability of vaccines to prevent severe infections, hospitalizations, and death in the face of Omicron is uncertain given how many mutations each Omicron subvariant has.

“Many factors influence how severe symptoms might be for someone including prior infection, age, vaccination history, health conditions, and others.”

“Omicron subvariants continue to spread at unprecedented rates and more research and data are needed to determine the full impact of Omicron.”

The Health Desk Experts said the term “mild” for a virus or variant is misleading because there are a number of factors that might make something mild or severe.

“For instance, though data suggests that Omicron causes less severe symptoms and health outcomes than other previous variants, there are a few characteristics that one could argue make this variant not mild. For instance: 1) its high transmissibility, 2) the fact that Omicron is a variant that many people are getting reinfected with (which increases the risk of poor outcomes), and 3) the potential ability for some Omicron subvariants to evade immunity,” said the Experts.

Latest Covid-19 statistics in Zimbabwe

As of 19 July 2022, 2 658 people received their first doses bringing cumulative for the first dose to 6 349 256, 1 358 people received their second dose bringing cumulative for the second dose to 4 702 463 while  1 203 received their third dose bringing cumulative for the third dose to 918 716. Zimbabwe has recorded 256 187 cases, 250 080 recoveries, and 5 568 deaths.

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