The Omicron variant has increased transmissibility and potential immune evasion compared to other variants. WHO says unvaccinated are at high risk.
Claim stating that the "Omicron variant is less severe for unvaccinated people" started circulating on social media, quoting a study from South Africa. However, the study has been misinterpreted. The South African study stated that while comparing the Omicron variant to the "Delta strain."
The study was led by Mary Ann-Davies, an associate professor at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in the Western Cape region, compared 11,609 patients from the first three waves of infection caused by the Delta variant and 5,144 patients from the omicron-driven wave resulting in 8 percent of people hospitalized or died within 14 days after being diagnosed with Omicron variant compared with 16.5 percent over the three earlier waves Delta, Alpha, and Beta.
It further mentioned that the severe disease in the Omicron-driven wave was reduced primarily due to protection from prior infection or vaccination than the Delta variant concluding that about a quarter of the reduced risk of severe disease with Omicron variant was attributable to characteristics of the virus itself. However, the study is yet to be peer-reviewed.
Moreover, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, noted that although Omicron does trigger less severe disease in those who catch it, it doesn't necessarily make it less dangerous. Evidence consistently suggests that Omicron is more contagious than the already highly transmissible Delta variant, with rapid increases in cases seen in several countries.
Also, on January 12, 2022, the World Health Organization said that though Omicron causes less severe disease in vaccinated compared to Delta, it remains a dangerous virus, particularly for unvaccinated patients. Hence we mark this claim as misleading. It is believed that the Omicron variant is more easily transmissible and could evade the human immune system despite getting the vaccine.