Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Vaccine and infection figures mark small victory in Omicron battle

  • AstraZeneca, Novavax say their shots protect against Omicron
  • UK data suggests fewer hospitalizations than Delta
  • Do not extrapolate from similar SA African data – African CDC
  • WHO also urged caution about drawing concrete conclusions
  • Biden moves too little, too late for Omicron—experts

JOHANNESBURG/LONDON, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Two vaccine makers said their shots are safe against Omicron as UK data suggested it may cause proportionately fewer hospital cases than the delta coronavirus virus. However, public health experts warned that the fight against COVID-19 was far from over. Above.

Similarly encouraging signs emerged from South Africa on Wednesday about hospitalization rates, but the head of a major African health agency joined the World Health Organization and warned it was too early to draw broad conclusions.

“Let’s be careful not to extrapolate what we are seeing across the continent or around the world in South Africa,” John Nkengsong, head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control (CDC), told a media briefing.

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Wherever the highly contagious omicron has spread, coronavirus infections have increased, leading to new restrictions in many countries.

First identified last month in southern Africa and Hong Kong, the variant is taking effect across much of Europe, including the UK, where daily new infections have exceeded 100,000.

In France, daily coronavirus cases – currently close to 90,000 – could soar into the hundreds of thousands in January, a scientific adviser to President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday, while Germany reported its first omicron death. read more

In Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the pandemic last year, the National Institutes of Health said Omicron would soon prevail, while Greece banned public Christmas celebrations to curb its spread. Both countries have also made it mandatory to wear outdoor masks. read more

But since a surge in hospitalizations and deaths in South Africa and the UK, Omicron has only acted sequentially, and AstraZeneca (AZN.L) and Novavax (NVX.O) are involved, with other vaccine makers saying That his shots defended it.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh, who tracked 22,205 Omicron patients, said on Wednesday that Delta patients had 68% fewer hospitalizations based on rates, which were lower than they expected.

Researchers at Imperial College London reported evidence of a comparatively 40%-45% reduction in the risk of hospitalization.

‘Don’t overexplain’

Raghib Ali, senior clinical research associate at the University of Cambridge, said scientists had warned that with UK cases increasing, even a small fraction of hospitalizations could overwhelm the health system.

However, the data was encouraging and “could help justify the government’s decision not to extend restrictions on social gathering over Christmas in England”, he said.

UK data on Wednesday supported the findings of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). read more

A separate South African government-backed study on healthcare workers given the Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) vaccine, yet to be peer-reviewed, found “clear and early de-coupling” of hospitalizations from Omicron cases compared to Delta ” has been identified.

However, the CDC’s Nkengasong said the NICD data, suggesting Omicron was 70%-80% less severe than Delta’s, should be interpreted “with great caution.”

A woman carries her luggage amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic at Central Station in Berlin, Germany on December 22, 2021. Reuters/Anegret Hills

“It is early days and public health practice is local,” he said, adding that particular factors such as the young average age of the South African population may be at play.

On Wednesday, the WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19, Maria van Kerkhove, said the data on Omicron was too “messy” to draw firm conclusions.

Case data on the spread of Omicron from the UK Health Protection Agency later on Thursday are expected to provide further clues about its severity.

Vaccine hopes

AstraZeneca said a three-course dose of its COVID-19 vaccine offered protection against the variant, citing data from an Oxford University lab study.

The study’s findings, not yet published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, match those of rivals Pfizer-BioNtech (pfe.n), (22UAy.DE) and Moderna (mRNA.o).

A few hours ago, Novavax Inc. (NVX.O) said preliminary data suggests that its vaccine – authorized for use by the European Union and WHO but not yet approved by the United States – also elicited an immune response against Omicron. generated.

In the United States, a day after approving a similar treatment from Pfizer Inc. (PFE), the Food and Drug Administration approved a Merck & Co. (MRK.N) antiviral pill for certain high-risk adult patients with COVID-19. authorized for. .N) For high-risk patients above 12 years of age. Read more

Health experts said it was too little too late for President Joe Biden to backstop hospitals and distribute coronavirus test kits over Christmas to stem a surge of Omicron-related infections. read more

A day after Biden outlined a plan to distribute 500 million at-home coronavirus test kits, UCLA professor of epidemiology Anne Rimoin praised her focus on testing.

“Unfortunately, it is too late to arrive and will be a small drop in the bucket compared to the tsunami of cases on the horizon,” she said.

Wall Street’s main indices opened higher on Thursday, when data suggested O’Micron was less serious than feared. Read more But the old delta version continues to circulate.

The coronavirus death toll in Russia, where officials had detected only 41 omicron cases, crossed 600,000 on Thursday, a Reuters count based on official data showed, following a surge of delta-linked infections. read more

Only the United States and Brazil have recorded more coronavirus deaths.

In India, where daily infections neared 7,500 with just 23 omicron cases on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to hold a meeting with state heads to discuss what could be a potential omicron surge ahead of the festive season. How to compete read more

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Worldwide reporting by Reuters Bureau; Writing by John Stonestreet; Editing by Katherine Evans, Edmund Blair, Mark Heinrich and Nick McPhee

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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