Dec. 1, 2021 -- A South African doctor treating patients who tested positive for the Omicron variant said Tuesday that vaccinated people don’t appear to have complications so far.
Monitoring complications could provide an early indicator of whether the current COVID-19 vaccines are effective in protecting against serious illness from the new variant.
“The patients that have been vaccinated so far have no complication,” Angelique Coetzee, the national chair of the South African Medical Association, told CNN.
Patients have been treated at home and haven’t needed hospitalization, she said. The cases have mostly been detected in younger people, she noted, so health officials aren’t yet sure whether the variant will cause more severe symptoms in older adults.
“I have seen vaccinated people and not really very sick,” she said. “That might change going forward, as we say, this is early days. And this is maybe what makes us hopeful.”
Coetzee was one of the first doctors in South Africa to notice patients were showing different symptoms than other strains of the coronavirus, such as fatigue, headaches, and body pain. Her patients tested positive for COVID-19, and she reported the cases to South African health authorities.
Other doctors in South Africa have also said that vaccinated patients with the Omicron variant are having only mild to moderate symptoms, CNN reported. Among those who are hospitalized, about 90% are unvaccinated.
“We’re seeing younger patients and we’re seeing milder cases of Omicron,” Mvuyisi Mzukwa, vice chair of the South African Medical Association, told CNN.
“Obviously, we’re still gathering information as to the spread of this Omicron in the country, but it is not what it is touted to be out there,” he said. “There is nothing much that we see beyond what we have seen with the Delta variant.”
The Omicron variant, which has a large number of mutations, was first identified in South Africa and has now spread to at least 20 countries. Scientists are studying whether Omicron is more contagious, causes more severe disease, or evades vaccines. The first study results could be announced within 2 weeks, though data about how well vaccines work against the variant could take longer.