New study finds omicron variant less severe

A new study out of South Africa found the omicron variant of the coronavirus appears to cause less severe illness than previous strains, but it also does a better job of evading vaccine defenses.

People who received two doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine appeared to have just 33 percent protection against omicron compared to those who were unvaccinated.

Researchers did not evaluate the effectiveness of booster shots against the variant because they are not widespread in South Africa, the country where omicron was first detected.

What about treatment? Pfizer said Tuesday that a study of its experimental pill to treat COVID-19 found it reduced hospitalizations and deaths by about 89 percent among high-risk adults when taken shortly after initial symptoms. Separate laboratory testing shows the drug stands up well against the omicron variant.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to make a decision soon on whether to authorize Pfizer’s pill and a competing pill from Merck. COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are all rising again in the United States. Right now, the delta variant is still driving the surge.

This story originally appeared in WORLD. © 2021, reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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