South Africa is seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases due to re-infections among people who had recovered from the disease. Scientists studying the spread of the Omicron variant have found that re-infections indicate that the previous infection offers less protection against the new variant compared to previous versions.
In a virtual conference hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), Anne von Gottberg, microbiologist, National Institute of Communicable Diseases, South Africa, mentioned that past infections are not very effective against the new variant. , but the immunity developed in previous infections may provide protection against the severity of the disease, including hospitalization and death.
“In our population (South Africa) with high seroprevalence, which means that many people have already had infections. We believe that this previous infection does not offer them protection against infection from Omicron. However, it hopefully offers them protection against serious illness, hospitalization and death, ”said von Gottberg.
She added that the ability to evade immunity developed by previous infections also implies that the susceptibility of the population is greater than previous infections used to protect against B.1.617 or the Delta variant. During the conference, von Gottberg also spoke about travel bans imposed on South African countries and said the restrictions may have a negative impact on the logistics of research carried out by scientists.
The new variant first detected in Botswana has now spread to more than 30 countries. South Africa, at present, has the highest number of Omicron variant cases.
South Africa is currently using the vaccine developed by Pfizer / BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson. However, only 24 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. The rest of the population depends on natural immunity and immunity developed due to previous infections.
In recent studies, it was found that the chances of re-infection due to the new Omicron variant are threefold. Research is ongoing to find out whether the new variant can also evade the immunity developed by the vaccine.
(Edited by : Shoma bhattacharjee)