Healthcare

South African doctor treating omicron patients says vaccinated ‘so far have no complication’

A woman receives a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a center, in Soweto, South Africa
Associated Press/Denis Farrell

A South African doctor who is treating patients who tested positive for the COVID-19 omicron variant said on Tuesday that vaccinated individuals who are sick with the new strain “so far have no complication,” an early indication that existing inoculations may be effective in protecting against serious illness from the new variant.

“The patients that has been vaccinated so far have no complication,” Angelique Coetzee, the national chair of the South African Medical Association, told host John Berman on CNN’s “New Day.”

“I have seen vaccinated people and not really very sick. That might change going forward, as we say, this is early days. And this is maybe what makes us hopeful,” Coetzee added.

Health officials across the globe are working to determine if existing coronavirus vaccines are effective in protecting against illness from the omicron strain, which was labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week.

The variant, which has a high number of mutations, was first identified in South Africa but has since spread to a number of countries.

While Coetzee’s observations are not definite evidence that vaccines are still protective against serious infection from the omicron variant, they do offer a sign that existing shots may be effective in safeguarding patients in some capacity.

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins on Sunday said it will take weeks to understand if the omicron variant can evade coronavirus vaccines that are being used in the U.S.

Some companies, however, are already developing shots to target the omicron variant, including BioNTech and Novavax.

The WHO over the weekend said the omicron variant poses a “very high” global risk, but health experts worldwide are still gathering more information to understand the transmissibility and severity of the new strain.

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