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Uncertainty over Omicron impact on elderly

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US: Healthy individuals who have been vaccinated, and especially those who have been boosted, appear unlikely to develop severe infections from the Omicron variant that would land them in the hospital, say medical experts who have monitored the effects of the newest coronavirus variant since it was identified over four weeks ago.

While Omicron has sent US infections soaring to levels not seen since last winter’s wave, it appears to have less severe effects than the delta variant, according to a handful of international studies and early data from several US hospitals.

Those infected by the Omicron variant are 15 to 20 per cent less likely to go to an emergency room, and 40 per cent less likely to be hospitalised overnight, compared with those infected with delta, according to English data analysed by scientists from Imperial College London. That aligns with early US data from some hospitals.

At the Houston Methodist hospital system, about 15 per cent of symptomatic individuals have ended up hospitalised – around a 70 per cent reduction compared with those infected by the delta variant, said James Musser, chair of pathology and genomic medicine.

A separate study from Britain, which is not yet peer reviewed, found that people infected with Omicron were almost 60 per cent less likely to enter the hospital than those infected with delta.

“What is absolutely clear is there is lower rate of hospitalisation with our Omicron patients in our hospital system,” Musser said.

“That does not necessarily mean that this variant is quote-unquote ‘less virulent.’ The jury’s still out on that. What we know now is that … if you are immunised and, more importantly, if you are boosted, you’re going to stay out of substantial trouble.”

He and other experts warn against complacency, however, cautioning that millions of Americans, particularly the unvaccinated, remain vulnerable to more serious disease from the most transmissible coronavirus variant to date.

Thursday, December 30, 2021 – 01:00

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