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South African researchers: Omicron more easily to reinfect people than other variants

Covid testing
Posted at 4:46 PM, Dec 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-06 17:41:47-05

(WXYZ) — New research suggests that past COVID-19 infections may not provide protection against the new coronavirus variant.

South African scientists found that a percentage of people who were previously infected have been reinfected with omicron.

This latest study is a bit worrisome because typically, past coronavirus infections often provided protection, at least when it came to delta. But now this new variant omicron appears to be changing that, at least based on this latest study.

So, here’s what the scientists did: They looked at data from 2.7 million people in South Africa who had been infected with the virus. Of that group, over 35,000 people had COVID-19 more than once. And when the researchers isolated the cases that happened in November, they found that 14.2% ended up getting infected for a third time.

Now, that’s not saying 100% that the omicron variant is causing these reinfections. But when you look at genetically sequenced samples in South Africa last month, omicron accounted for 74% of them. So it’s very likely that this new variant is driving reinfections.

However, more and more data is coming in from genetically sequenced samples. So, we’ll know later this month if Omicron is really causing reinfections or not.

This particular study did not include vaccinated people. But the scientists do recognize the urgency of finding out if omicron is able to escape immunity that’s acquired through vaccination. And if it does sidestep this protection, we then need to know if people are more at risk of getting hospitalized or dying.

What vaccines do is activate different layers of the immune response. Some work to fight off infections while others work to protect the body from developing severe disease. And immunity that comes from vaccines is stronger than immunity from infection.

I personally feel that our vaccines will provide protection. But to know for sure, we have to wait to see the results from laboratory testing and epidemiological studies.

In the meantime, let’s not forget that here in America, delta is still the main variant. I know cases of the omicron variant have skyrocketed in South Africa. They went from 200 a day to over 16,000 in just a couple of weeks.

But right now in the U.S., delta is the problem. And our cases are continuing to rise and once again, the U.S. is averaging over 100,000 cases a day. So please get vaccinated and get your booster when you’re eligible.