It has been a hard few weeks since we first heard about Omicron at the end of November and now are experiencing a large wave of community spread across the Island.
Yet today, I am for the first time feeling cautiously optimistic because three studies came out in the past 24 hours that all suggest that Omicron causes less serious disease than Delta.
As you have no doubt been hearing or reading about, it is often hard to compare studies across different countries because of different types of vaccine used, proportion of the population vaccinated, ethnicity, age of the population, and proportion of population who have previously been infected with different variants.
There is no population that is directly comparable to PEI—we have a very high rate of vaccination and a community that is mostly willing to follow the CPHO recommendations. At the same time, we have very little immunity from infection with previous variants because of our control measures over the past 20 months—this is in contrast to the UK where it is estimated that up to 50% of the population have already been infected with different variants. We also have a rapidly growing number of Islanders who have had booster doses.
Two of these studies were done in the UK and showed a reduction in admissions with Omicron versus Delta of any where from 40 to 60%. One study also showed that hospital stays were shorter with Omicron.
Importantly, one of these studies showed that prior infection with another variant also protected against hospital admission with Omicron (something we cannot rely on here). The other study is from South Africa where they showed an 80% reduction in admissions compared to other variants.
What this means for PEI is not entirely clear given the cautions above about comparing different populations; however, I do feel that this puts us in better shape and I believe our system is capable of appropriately caring for Islanders over the coming weeks, with likely some reduction in non-essential services.
There are news stories and social media posts from all angles—those that talk about doomsday scenarios and others that say this is overblown. The ultimate answer will be somewhere in the middle and we are up for the task.
I expect a flood of more studies and predictions in the coming 1-2 weeks and we will continually refine our predictions for our health care system and will summarize them and share with you as we go through this.
Hang in there Health PEI!
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