Good news about Omicron from Netcare and Discovery

Vaccinated people are 70% less likely to require hospitalisation due to a Covid-19 infection, according to data from Discovery, and 75% of Netcare’s’ patients who have Covid-19 are unvaccinated.

Furthermore, Netcare’s’ CEO, Richard Friedland, told Biznews the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 appears to mutate similarly to the Spanish flu, with each wave dominated by a less-severe variant.

“[This] is what happens. This is what we saw with the Spanish flu. We call it an antigenic drift,” Friedland said.

“The Spanish flu never went away. It stopped killing people, but it morphed into what we know is a very highly transmissible influenza or flu-like virus that is still with us today.”

Mia Malan, editor-in-chief of Bhekisisa, shared information on Discovery’s early study of vaccine efficacy against Omicron.

The data indicates that two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine make people 70% less likely to be hospitalised than unvaccinated people.

She also shared stats on the prevention of hospitalisation among those with two Pfizer doses across a range of age groups (18 to 79):

  • 18 to 29: 92%
  • 30 to 39: 75%
  • 40 to 49: 82%
  • 50 to 59: 74%
  • 60 to 69: 67%
  • 70 to 79: 59%

The Pfizer vaccine is 33% effective against infection by the omicron variant, Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach told Bloomberg.

Ryan Noach
Ryan Noach, CEO at Discovery Health

Discovery’s study included about 78,000 Covid-19 test results for omicron infections from 15 November to 7 December in South Africa.

It examined clinical records, vaccination records, and pathology test results.

Noach said the risk of reinfection with the current variant is high, but hospitalisations are lower than previous waves.

While there is a relatively high risk of reinfection with Omicron, hospital-admission risk linked to infection from the variant was 29% lower overall for the general adult population, compared with South Africa’s first wave in mid-2020.

Friedland said that Netcare hasn’t had many real admissions for Covid-19 since it began monitoring the new variant on 15 November.

Netcare CEO, Dr Richard Friedland
Netcare CEO, Dr Richard Friedland

“I think it is because the new variant is causing mild to moderate disease. In many cases, it’s asymptomatic,” he said.

“We have yet to see the severe form of the disease, which is what we define as people who require hospitalisation; those who’ve got your classic Covid-19 pneumonia and have a life-threatening disease that may lead to death.”

Friedland also emphasised the need for South Africans to get vaccinated.

“I can tell you one thing, 75% of the patients in our hospital who have Covid-19 are not vaccinated. I think that speaks volumes to the point that we should all be vaccinated,” he said.

“The majority of those who have died, of our 22 deaths, are patients who have not been vaccinated.”

Now read: Pfizer and Moderna working on modified boosters to fight Omicron

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Good news about Omicron from Netcare and Discovery