New study finds ommicron no less serious than previous variants, and not just more transmissible

A new study conducted by researchers from Harvard Medical School, among others, has found that the omicron variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is just as serious as previous variants, and no more transmissible but no less serious, as previously thought.

The study was based on data from 130,000 COVID patients in Massachusetts and was conducted by researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Minerva University along with Harvard and is currently being peer-reviewed by Nature Portfolio, according to a Reuters report.

But the findings, which evaluated the severity of omicron after taking into account the effect of vaccines, underscore the importance of vaccines and boosters, showing that they helped curb hospitalizations and deaths during the omicron wave.

“Although the unadjusted rates of hospitalization and mortality appeared to be higher in previous waves compared to the Omicron period, after adjusting for confounders, including different demographics, Charlson comorbidity index scores, and vaccination status (and keeping health care utilization constant) , we found that the risks of hospitalization and death were nearly identical between periods,” the authors wrote.

“Our analysis suggests that the intrinsic severity of the Omicron variant may be just as severe as previous variants.”

The study comes after a Washington Post analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week found that omicron caused a spike in deaths among people who were vaccinated in January and February. Those deaths were mostly among the elderly and people with compromised immune systems and are thought to have had dwindling protection against vaccination.

See now: Omicron caused spike in deaths in vaccinated people, analysis shows, though unvaccinated people are most at risk

Experts agree that vaccination and boosters remain the best protection against serious illness and death and continue to encourage unvaccinated people to get their injections. And there are concerns that the initial belief that omicron caused only mild symptoms may have made the vaccine hesitate that they didn’t need to be vaccinated.

The study comes as US cases continue to climb after their steep decline early in the year, driven by the BA.2 variant of ommicron, and two sub-variants that appear to be even more contagious. The two, called BA.2.12 and BA.2.12.1, were recently highlighted by New York state health officials.

According to a New York Times tracker, the US has an average of 67,953 cases per day, 59% more than two weeks ago. The number of cases is rising in all but four states and territories and has more than doubled from two weeks ago in more than a dozen, the tracker shows.

The country has an average of 18,181 hospital admissions per day, 20% more than two weeks ago, but still relatively low. The daily death toll has fallen below 400 to 366 on average.

The World Health Organization said on Thursday that new estimates show that the total death toll directly or indirectly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021 is about 15 million.

That number compares to the count of 6.24 million provided by Johns Hopkins University.

Coronavirus update: MarketWatch’s daily roundup collects and reports the latest developments since the start of the coronavirus pandemic every weekday

Other COVID-19 news to know about:

• US regulators on Thursday strictly limited who can get Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine because of a rare but serious risk of blood clots, the Associated Press reported. The Food and Drug Administration said the injection should only be given to adults who cannot receive another vaccine or specifically request J&J JNJ’s Janssen vaccine,
-0.78%
US authorities have been recommending for months that Americans starting their COVID-19 vaccination use the Pfizer PFE,
+0.85%
or modern MRNA,
-6.18%
shots instead. The FDA’s vaccine chief, Dr. Peter Marks, said the agency decided to restrict the vaccine after re-examining the data on the risks of life-threatening blood clots and concluding that they are limited to J&J’s vaccine.

• North Carolina state employees will receive an extra day of vacation to receive a COVID-19 booster, Governor Roy Cooper announced as the state government there uses a new incentive to increase vaccination rates, the AP reported separately. Cooper has signed an executive order granting leave to employees on permanent, probation or limited time whose offices at the cabinet level report to him. The extra time off will be given to those who have already received the first COVID-19 booster or to those who can present the first supporting documents before August 31st.

Beijing races to test more than 20 million people as residents rush to stock up on food. WSJ’s Jonathan Cheng shows what life is like in the capital and unfolds the potential ripple effects if officials can’t control the rapidly spreading virus. Photo: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

• The number of unruly air passenger incidents in the US has fallen since a federal judge in Florida overturned the federal mandate, the New York Times reported, citing data from the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency reported 1.9 incidents per 10,000 flights in the week ending April 24, compared to 4.4 incidents per 10,000 flights a week earlier. He declined to give a reason for the decline. The CDC continues to recommend that people wear face masks on public transit and at public transit interchanges, especially as sub-variants of ommicron continue to circulate.

• The reluctance of China’s elderly population to get vaccinated poses a challenge to the country’s zero-COVID strategy, the Washington Post reported. Unlike most Chinese coronavirus prevention measures, vaccination is not mandatory, and low uptake among the country’s most vulnerable groups is a major reason why Communist Party leaders feel compelled to continue a grueling campaign. “zero-COVID” approach. This has led to a strict lockdown in Shanghai that is now being relaxed. Chinese President Xi Jinping said easing the strategy would now lead to “massive numbers of infections” and deaths.

This is what the numbers say

The global number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 516.2 million on Wednesday, while the death toll rose above 6.24 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

The US leads the world with 81.7 million cases and 996,996 fatalities.

The tracker from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 219.9 million people in the US have been fully vaccinated, which is equivalent to 66.3% of the total population. But only 101 million get a boost, which is equivalent to 45.9% of the vaccinated population.

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