A new South African study, along with data on hospitalisations and deaths in the country’s fourth wave of COVID infections, suggest that the risk of severe disease is lower with Omicron than with previous variants, a top scientist has said.
“Compellingly, together our data really suggest a positive story of a reduced severity of Omicron compared to other variants,” said Professor Cheryl Cohen of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), one of the authors of the new study, during a news conference on Tuesday.
South Africa’s noticeable drop in new COVID-19 cases in recent days may signal that the country’s dramatic Omicron-driven surge has passed its peak, medical experts said earlier.
Meanwhile, AstraZeneca is collaborating with Oxford University to develop an improved coronavirus vaccine that will exclusively target the Omicron variant, the company has announced.
France could soon have around 100,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, health minister Olivier Veran has warned, as the new Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread rapidly.
Here are the latest updates:
Britain to vaccinate vulnerable younger children
Britain said it would start vaccinating vulnerable children aged five to 11 against COVID-19 after the country’s medicines regulator approved the use of a lower dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot in that age group.
The children will receive two 10-microgram doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – a third of the adult dose – with an interval of eight weeks between the first and second doses, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said.
Nigeria destroys 1 million expired vaccine shots
Authorities in Nigeria have publicly destroyed over one million expired doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine even as the West African country’s vaccination rate has almost doubled in the last one week amid a spike in confirmed infections.
The expired doses – numbering 1,066,214 – were destroyed in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, a week after the nation said it will no longer accept donated COVID-19 vaccines with short shelf lives.
Al Jazeera’s Fidelis Mbah reported from Abuja that the government’s very public display of destroying the vaccines was to assure citizens whatever jabs were administered, were of “good quality” – amid conspiracies and false information against vaccines in the country.
Unless poor nations vaccinated, new variants will keep coming: Academic
Bharat Pankhania of the The University of Exeter Medical School told Al Jazeera THAT unless poor nations are fully vaccinated, richer nations immunising their populations multiple times will not stop variants emerging.
“Again, the richer nations can do whatever they like, because they’ve got the vaccines, supplies, and they can immunise their population once, twice, thrice,” he said from Bath, UK.
However, he said: “If you do not suppress infections in vulnerable countries where you have a lot of immune suppressed people, then you will get the drive for variants to emerge. And Omicron is one such example. And we can definitely get other variants which will again be a setback.”