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No reason to doubt vaccines will work against Omicron, says WHO

·1-min read

Offering a touch of optimism in the wake of the Omicron Covid variant, a top World Health Organization (WHO) official has said there is “no reason to doubt” the efficacy of existing vaccines on the highly mutated virus.

"We have very effective vaccines that have demonstrated their power against all variants so far, in terms of severity of disease and hospitalisations,” Michael Ryan, the WHO's emergencies director, told AFP.

"The general behaviour we are seeing so far shows no increase in severity. In fact, some places in southern Africa are reporting milder symptoms," he said, echoing an earlier statement by prominent American scientist Anthony Fauci.

Small-scale lab tests in South Africa, however, suggest Omicron can partially evade the Pfizer jab, with researchers finding there was a "very large drop" in how well the vaccine's antibodies neutralised the strain.

Panic

The emergency of Omicron has caused some panic - especially in Europe, which is already experiencing a massive fifth wave of Covid-19 cases caused by the Delta variant.

Ryan said that the studies of the variant, first detected on 24 November, were still in their early stages, adding there was no clear sign Omicron would be better at evading vaccines than other variants.

"We have to be very careful in the way we analyse this data," he said.

Initial data, he added, suggested Omicron made people less sick than the Delta and other strains.

More information on how effective the Pfizer jab is against Omicron is expected to be released in the coming days.

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