Those who already had COVID-19 also at risk of being reinfected by Omicron

Those who have had COVID-19 may be reinfected more easily with the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, currently spreading across the world.

According to preliminary analysis by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), scientists are noting a high rate of reinfections during the current resurgence compared to the previous waves.

“Now we’re seeing an increase for Omicron and that speaks to the fact that in our population with a high seroprevalence, where many people have had the previous infection. We believe that previous infection does not provide them protection from infection due to Omicron,” said Professor Anne von Gottberg.

Von Gottberg, who is a Clinical Microbiologist at the NICD’s Centre for Respiratory Diseases and Meningitis, was a panellist at a press conference on Omicron and the vaccine rollout in Africa.

While the world still knows very little about the “heavily mutated” variant, she said she hopes that it provides them with protection against severe disease, hospital admissions and death.

“People talk about increased transmissibility. I think in this case, the virus’ characteristics may be very similar or slightly less than Delta in being able to be contagious,” she explained.

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“However, it’s the susceptibility of the population that is greater now. Because previous infections that used to protect against Delta and now with Omicron, it doesn’t seem to be the case.”

Vaccines, however, will still protect against severe disease, she said.

“We’ve seen this increase in protection using vaccines with the other variants. The vaccines have always held out to prevent severe disease and admission into hospitals and dying.”

She called on people to get the lifesaving jabs for them to have vaccine-induced protection. In addition, she urged citizens to use non-pharmaceutical interventions such as wearing masks and avoiding gatherings in unventilated spaces.

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