About 100,000 of these deaths occurred in the US, since Omicron was declared a "variant of concern", the World Health Organization has said. WHO incident manager Abdi Mahamud said in an online Q&A session that the death toll is "tragic" given the availability of "effective vaccines".
He added there have been 130 million reported cases of the coronavirus globally since Omicron. Doctors and public health officials believe that Omicron has been particularly lethal to people over 75, the unvaccinated and the medically vulnerable, the report said.
"That feels quite jarring to people who may have assumed Omicron is generally on a per-case level less severe and given the fact we have vaccinated at least some portion of the country," Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was quoted as saying. "Even if on a per-case basis fewer people develop severe illness and die, when you apply a small percentage to a very large number, you get a substantial number," she added. Existing COVID-19 Vaccines Induce Robust Cellular Immunity Against Omicron Variant, Says Study.
Experts theorised that hospitalisations and deaths during the Delta surge skewed younger because of high rates of vaccination among senior citizens and the Delta variant appearing to cause particularly severe illness among middle-aged adults compared to earlier surges.
But, now the age distribution of deaths resembles the deadliest stage of the pandemic last winter, when more than 3,000 were dying a day. "Omicron may be less severe for younger people, but it will still find vulnerable seniors in our community," Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, was quoted as saying. UNICEF: Even as Omicron Variant Takes Hold, School Closures Must Be a Measure of Last Resort.
He suspects factors include seniors who were recently vaccinated during the delta surge but did not get boosters ahead of omicron and higher raw numbers of seniors infected in the latest wave. "That vaccination back in February isn't as effective now if you aren't boosted," Salemi said. Last week, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news briefing that Covid deaths are increasing in many parts of the world. He warned it would be "premature for any country either to surrender, or to declare victory" against the coronavirus.
"We're concerned that a narrative has taken hold in some countries that because of vaccines, and because of omicron's high transmissibility and lower severity, preventing transmission is no longer possible, and no longer necessary," he said.
(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Feb 10, 2022 01:55 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).