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Reinfection Appears More Likely with Omicron

Scientists in South Africa are seeing a rise in coronavirus infections among people who have recovered from COVID-19, suggesting previous infection may provide less protection against the omicron variant than earlier versions, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).

Not as robust a defense: “Previous infection used to protect against delta, and now with omicron, it doesn’t seem to be the case,” Professor Anna Von Gottberg from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg said Thursday. However, she said a past infection should still offer protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death.

  • While it remains unknown how frequently reinfection is happening in South Africa, where less than one-quarter of the population is vaccinated, reinfection is happening more frequently with omicron than with other variants.

Vaccines still strong: Because the COVID-19 vaccines have offered solid protection against earlier variants similar to omicron, there is reason to believe they will do so in the case of this strain as well. 

  • Omicron carries more than 50 mutations and is now being widely identified in South Africa, where it was first found.
  • The variant now seems to be the predominant one in South Africa.

Becoming dominant: “Jean-François Delfraissy, who leads the scientific board advising French authorities about the pandemic, said the omicron variant will become common in France and Europe by around the end of January. He told French television that he expects it to progressively take over from the delta variant.”

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