People wait in line to be tested for COVID-19 in New York City's Times Square on Tuesday. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 23 (UPI) -- Two new scientific studies indicate that the Omicron COVID-19 variant appears to be milder than prior strains like Delta, but it still has the potential to kill and overwhelm hospitals worldwide.
The studies were conducted at the Imperial College London and Scotland's University of Edinburgh.
The University of Edinburgh study, which examined nearly 24,000 patients infected with the Omicron variant in November and December, says those who'd received a vaccine saw milder symptoms and were "substantially less likely" to need hospitalization compared to Delta.
While most scientists agree that Omicron is better able to evade vaccination, the Scottish study found that the vaccines do appear to offer protection against the new mutation.
"We also show that the third/booster dose is associated with substantial additional protection within two weeks of this additional dose, compared to two doses of vaccine received 25 or more weeks ago," the authors of the study said.
"This protection is greatest for Delta, but still substantial for Omicron."
The study, however, noted several limitations -- such as limited data on the severity of Omicron, since the strain is still so new. It was first detected in South Africa in November.
"The very limited data available from South Africa indicate that Omicron is associated with reduced risk of severe disease," the authors added.
"It is, however, difficult to make inferences to countries with different population age structures and lower levels of natural immunity."
The Imperial College London study said its study found that those infected with Omicron are roughly 20% less likely to need hospitalization compared to Delta -- and as much as 45% less likely to stay in hospital for more than one night.
The analysis also said people who have previously been infected with COVID-19 were even less likely to end up in the hospital -- as much as 60% less likely.
The study examined 56,000 Omicron patients and 269,000 infected with Delta.