New Study Suggests Omicron Could Boost Protection Against Different Variant

Catching the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 could end up boosting immunity against the previous widespread strain called Delta, a new study out of South Africa has found.

Scientists at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban conducted a small study that found people infected with Omicron — and especially those who have been fully vaccinated — developed a higher immunity to Delta.

“The research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, involved 15 vaccinated and unvaccinated Omicron patients in South Africa, according to Bloomberg News, which noted that two were excluded because they didn’t detectably neutralize Omicron,” the New York Post reported. “The authors, led by Alex Sigal and Khadija Khan, found that while the neutralization of Omicron increased 14-fold over 14 days after the enrollment, there also was a 4.4-fold increase in neutralization of the Delta variant.”

“The increase in Delta variant neutralization in individuals infected with Omicron may result in decreased ability of Delta to re-infect those individuals,” the authors said, adding, the findings are “consistent with Omicron displacing the Delta variant, since it can elicit immunity which neutralizes making re-infection with Delta less likely.”

If Omicron can displace Delta to become the main variant, that could be big news because Omicron, while up to 70 times more contagious, seems far less likely to land sufferers in the hospital.

“If so, then the incidence of COVID-19 severe disease would be reduced and the infection may shift to become less disruptive to individuals and society,” the study said.

Researchers for a new study say Omicron appears to be milder than the Delta variant of COVID-19, leading to up to 80% fewer hospitalizations.

Of the people who contract the virus and are hospitalized, they’re also 70% less likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit or be put on a ventilator compared to those with Delta, the Daily Mail reported on the study led by South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

“So even though cases of omicron were less likely to end up in hospital than cases of delta, it is not possible to say whether this is due to inherent differences in virulence or whether this is due to higher population immunity in November compared to earlier in the year,” Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the U.K.’s University of East Anglia, told the Mail.

Another study found much of the same. “A separate study out of Scotland, by scientists at the University of Edinburgh and other experts, suggested the risk of hospitalization was two-thirds less with omicron than delta. But that study pointed out that the nearly 24,000 omicron cases in Scotland were predominantly among younger adults ages 20-39. Younger people are much less likely to develop severe cases of COVID-19,” the Associated Press reported.

“This national investigation is one of the first to show that Omicron is less likely to result in COVID-19 hospitalization than Delta,” researchers wrote, according to the AP. While the findings are drawn from early data, “they are encouraging,” the authors wrote.

Joseph Curl has covered politics for 35 years, including 12 years as White House correspondent, and ran the Drudge Report from 2010 to 2015. Send tips to

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