Every day we are learning more about Omicron, the latest identified variant of SARS-CoV-2. The speed of discoveries is a testament to medical research, especially from scientists in South Africa who first identified Omicron despite it being already present in European countries at the time of discovery.
The latest news from the African country suggests there is an increase in reinfections in this wave compared to previous waves. Infections are expected to deliver some level of protection comparable to the vaccine, but don’t make you immune to COVID-19. The potential that this variant is better at evading the immune system is certainly a cause of concern.
“Analysis of routine surveillance data from South Africa suggests that, in contrast to the Beta and Delta [variants], the Omicron variant of Sars-Cov-2 demonstrates substantial population-level evidence for evasion of immunity from prior infection,” South African epidemiologists concluded in the study published on MedRXiv, which is yet to be peer-reviewed.
South Africa only began receiving a substantial number of doses of COVID-19 vaccine in late spring due to vaccine inequality, and it had been vaccinating its population steadily ever since. Currently, just one-third of its population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The country appears to have entered its fourth wave, and sequencing data now put the Omicron variant as the dominant version of SARS-CoV-2 in the country with 74 percent of infections due to this version of the virus.