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Covid-19: Omicron is causing more infections but fewer hospital admissions than delta, South African data show

BMJ 2021; 375 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n3104 (Published 16 December 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;375:n3104

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  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

Data from South Africa’s largest private health insurer suggest that omicron is spreading faster than any previous coronavirus variant and showing signs of immune escape, with both vaccinated and previously infected people more at risk than in previous waves.

More than 90% of newly sequenced infections in South Africa now involve the omicron variant, and as it displaced delta, vaccine effectiveness dipped, revealed data presented by the insurer Discovery Health at a 14 December briefing.1

Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine provided only 33% protection against infection in this omicron fuelled wave, found the analysis, down from 80% in South Africa’s last, delta fuelled wave. The protection against severe symptoms requiring hospital admission has stood up better, at 70% in the current wave compared with 93% in the last.

Omicron also appears …

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