Infection with the omicron variant of Covid-19 is far less likely to land patients in the hospital than cases involving the delta strain, according to early study data out of Scotland.
The study suggests omicron is associated with a two-thirds reduction in the risk of hospitalization when compared to the earlier variant, though it’s also more contagious.
While booster doses offer greater protection against delta, a third shot also offers substantial additional protection against the risk of symptomatic infection for omicron, researchers found.
The study adds to other preliminary findings, including in South Africa, showing that the new strain is less likely to cause severe illness.
“Although preliminary, these national data should provide reassurance that omicron is substantially less likely to result in severe outcomes than delta,” the report said, adding that further studies are needed.
Yet the new strain also more contagious than earlier variants, leading to record daily case levels in the U.K. That could outweigh the benefit of lower severity, the researchers said.
Public health leaders have cautioned that other factors, such as higher numbers of people who are vaccinated or have previously had Covid, may complicate any comparison with previous points in the pandemic.