Given the physical and psychological toll of wave after wave of Covid-19, everybody is seeking deliverance from the pounding. However, given that even the WHO routinely gets its Covid-19 forecasts wrong, one doesn’t know who to believe on this subject. In this piece – taken from the authoritative journal ‘Science’- we look likely to get some relief, albeit modest, in the near term from the ravages of Covid: “South Africa, where Omicron was first sequenced, saw cases peak in mid-December. Although deaths are still on the rise, the overall impact has been relatively light as well. Omicron is unlikely to account for more than 5% of COVID-19 deaths in the country, says Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, compared with roughly 50% for Delta. Omicron’s impact is difficult to gauge in other parts of the world, where data are often sketchier.
Omicron’s massive spread leaves Madhi optimistic about the future. A serosurvey he led in Gauteng province, home to one-quarter of South Africa’s population, showed close to 70% of unvaccinated people carried SARS-CoV-2 antibodies at the start of the Omicron wave. In the next survey, he expects that number to have gone up to at least 85%, a level that should prepare South Africa for a post-Omicron future. “There will probably be another wave, but it is extremely unlikely to result in a higher death rate or hospitalization rate than what transpired during the course of the Omicron wave,” Madhi says.
Indeed, data so far suggest the human immune response becomes better and broader with every exposure to SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein.”
Data is also building up that countries which have had extensive vaccination have had fewer deaths from Omicron: “For now, Omicron is still spreading worldwide, its impact very different from country to country. Early hopes of a much milder wave were dashed in the United States, in part because its vaccination rate is relatively low. It is seeing more than 2000 deaths daily, as many as during the peak of the Delta wave. Although cases are now declining in New York, Florida, and California, the wave is still building elsewhere.
Countries with high vaccination coverage, such as Denmark, have had staggering numbers of infections as well but with far less severe disease and death. “Overall, the health pressure that we have felt until now has been less than what we feared,” says Henrik Ullum, head of the Statens Serum Institute. In fact, Denmark may lift all pandemic restrictions soon in spite of record-high case numbers. Health systems in many other European countries have been spared, as well.”
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