Covid-19: T cells need to be saved as Omicron cannot escape it, studies show

An unsung arm of the immune system appears to protect against serious illness with the Omicron variant, even when antibodies are depleted, which helps explain why a record wave of infections has not engulfed hospitals so far.

T cells, the body’s weapon against virus-infected cells, were primed enough by vaccination to defend against the omicron in separate studies from Erasmus University in the Netherlands and the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

The study from the University of Cape Town’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine looked at patients who had recovered from Covid or had been vaccinated with shots from Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE or Johnson & Johnson. They found that 70 to 80 percent of the T cell responses they estimated held up against Omicron.

The number of Covid-19 cases peaked at one million globally for the third day in a row, as the World Health Organization warned of an “uneven road” ahead.

Experts in Singapore, which are experiencing an increase in Omicron cases, warned that the new and reportedly more contagious variant is likely to replace Delta in the coming weeks as the dominant global variant, where the virus is more fit and has a reproductive advantage .

A booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid-19 vaccine was 84 percent effective in preventing hospitalization in South African healthcare workers who became infected as the Omicron variant spread, researchers said Thursday.

The real-world study, which has not been peer-reviewed, was based on a second dose of the J&J vaccine administered to 69,092 healthcare professionals between November 15 and December 20.

In the United States, viral deaths are falling, although cases are rising, according to federal health officials, who suggested that the rising Omicron variant may cause less suffering than other strains. Cases involving the Omicron variant are likely to peak in late January, said the president’s medical adviser Anthony Fauci.

The UK National Health Service is building temporary structures at hospitals around the country to prepare for a possible increase in Covid-19 patients, as the highly transmissible omicron variant nourishes a new wave of infections.


The UK reported a record 183,037 confirmed new ones infections on Wednesday, 32 percent more than the day before.

JetBlue Airways said it reduced its schedule until January 13 by about 1,280 flights due to an increase in crew members who became ill from the Omicron variant, an airline spokesman told Reuters on Thursday.

Italy, meanwhile, took off quarantine rules and introduced a vaccine mandate for most activities in an attempt to keep essential services running after the country registered a record number of cases in consecutive days.

Mario Draghi’s government has completely lifted its quarantine requirement for people who come into contact with a Covid-19 case as long as they have been given three vaccine doses, according to a statement.

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