That protection is maintained across all age groups and against a variety of chronic diseases, Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach said in a briefing.

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The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech, as well as the injection developed by Johnson & Johnson, appear to greatly prevent severe omicron variant disease, South African studies show.

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Pfizer’s two-shot course may offer 70% protection against hospitalization with the variant that is driving the nation’s fourth wave of infections, Discovery Health Ltd., the nation’s largest health insurance provider that covers Pfizer, said on Tuesday. 3.7 million customers.

That protection is maintained across all age groups and against a variety of chronic diseases, Discovery Health CEO Ryan Noach said in a briefing. Pfizer is 33% effective against omicron variant infection, he said.

Separate studies revealed by Pfizer on Tuesday showed that Pfizer’s experimental COVID-19 pill was highly effective in keeping patients out of the hospital, but less adept at erasing the milder symptoms often associated with breakthrough infections.

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Pfizer stock futures fell 0.6% and Johnson & Johnson futures contracts fell 0.5% at 1:30 pm in London on Tuesday. The falls pointed to lower openings for the two drug companies when markets open in New York.

Futures for Asian, European and US equities tumbled on Tuesday as investors prepared for a series of central bank meetings later this week, in which policymakers will decide on a timetable. for the gradual tightening of monetary policy and the reduction of stimulus measures. .

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The Discovery survey included around 78,000 positive COVID-19 test results attributed to omicron infections from November 15 to December 7 in South Africa, the epicenter of the omicron wave. Clinical records, vaccination records, and pathology test results were reviewed.

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While there is a relatively high risk of reinfection with the variant, the risk of hospital admission related to omicron infection was 29% lower overall for the general adult population, compared to the first wave of infections from South Africa to mid-2020, Noach said.

The study echoes initial findings from three other groups of hospitals showing that the majority of COVID patients do not need oxygen or intensive treatment for the disease. Scientists are still running dozens of tests to better understand omicron’s risks, and its significance will only be known in the coming weeks.

Still, despite omicron’s apparent lower severity, the sheer volume of infections could put “healthcare systems under incredible pressure,” Noach said.

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Unlike adults, children under the age of 18 are more likely to end up in the hospital than during previous waves, even when the risk of children testing positive is significantly lower than adults.

“Most children have a mild illness, with symptoms such as a sore throat, nasal congestion, headache and fever that resolve within three days,” Noach said.

Part of the reason for the absence of serious illness among South African residents could also be the level of previous infection, where 70% or more of the population has been exposed to COVID-19 at some point in the past 18 months.

“South Africa has seroprevalence data showing that up to 80% of the population in some parts of South Africa” ​​have had a previous infection, said Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council at the same briefing. “We don’t know how omicron will evolve in countries with low vaccination or previous infection rates.”

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No one has died from an infection with the strain, Gray said, citing a separate South African study that includes hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers who received the J&J vaccine. More details of that study will be available in the next few days, he said.

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