Denmark Sees Initial Signs That Dire Omicron Surge Can Be Avoided

"Early benchmarks from Denmark on infections and hospitalizations are providing grounds for guarded optimism that highly vaccinated countries might be able to weather the omicron wave," reports the Washington Post. "The developments, coupled with Denmark's speedy rollout of booster shots, have raised hopes the country can avoid the dire surge for which it has been bracing..." [O]ver the last week, the country has fared better than it was expecting. After surging to record-breaking levels, the number of daily cases has stabilized. Officials recorded 12,500 cases on Thursday, compared to 11,000 late last week. More important, hospitalizations have come in — so far — on the very low end of what was projected. A week ago, Denmark's government science institute said daily new coronavirus hospital admissions could range between 120 and 250 patients by Christmas Eve. In recent days, daily admissions have hung around 125.... The early signals from Denmark do not provide any direct measure on the severity of the variant, one of the key questions in this phase of the pandemic. But they track with other emerging data and studies from Britain and South Africa that suggest omicron is less likely to lead to hospitalization than the delta variant. Scientists caution that there are still many uncertainties, and that even if omicron is less likely to cause hospitalization, its increased transmissibility means countless sicknesses and disruptions. The virus could also spread so widely that it nonetheless leads to an influx at hospitals... It's also unclear whether and to what extent omicron's reduced severity is a feature of the virus itself, or rather a sign of population-level immunity stemming from vaccinations and prior infections. Compared with delta, omicron is far better at evading vaccines and causing infections in those who have already been inoculated. But Denmark's experience shows that a rapid booster rollout might be able to nonetheless help cut down rising infection numbers. A team of scientists at the State Serum Institute said in a research paper this week that Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots appeared to provide a 55 percent protection against infections, compared against cases from those who had received only two doses. Even if that level of protection dips over time, boosters "can help us through the next months," said Tyra Grove Krause, the chief epidemiologist at Denmark's State Serum Institute. According to Our World in Data, Denmark has issued the most per capita booster shots of any European Union country. Denmark said in its latest monitoring report, released Thursday, that 36.8 percent of its population had been boosted, more than double the level from two weeks earlier. Overall, 77.2 percent of the country's population has received at least two doses.

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