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Signals of significantly increased vaccine breakthrough, decreased hospitalization rates, and less severe disease in patients with COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 in Houston, Texas

By Paul A. Christensen, Randall James Olsen, Scott Wesley Long, Richard Snehal, James J Davis, Matthew Ojeda Saavedra, Kristina Reppond, Madison N. Shyer, Jessica Cambric, Ryan Gadd, Rashi M Thakur, Akanksha Batajoo, Regan Mangham, Sindy Pena, Trina Trinh, Jacob C. Kinskey, Guy Williams, Robert Olson, Jimmy Gollihar, James M. Musser

Posted 01 Jan 2022
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.12.30.21268560

Genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2 continue to dramatically alter the landscape of the COVID-19 pandemic. The recently described variant of concern designated Omicron (B.1.1.529) has rapidly spread worldwide and is now responsible for the majority of COVID-19 cases in many countries. Because Omicron was recognized very recently, many knowledge gaps exist about its epidemiology and clinical severity and disease course. A comprehensive genome sequencing study of SARS-CoV-2 in the Houston Methodist healthcare system identified 862 symptomatic patients with infections caused by Omicron from late November 2021 through December 18, 2021. Omicron very rapidly increased in only three weeks to cause 90% of all new COVID-19 cases. Compared to patients infected with either Alpha or Delta variants in our healthcare system, Omicron patients were significantly younger, had significantly increased vaccine breakthrough rates, and were significantly less likely to be hospitalized. Omicron patients required less intense respiratory support and had a shorter length of hospital stay, consistent with decreased disease severity. Although the number of Omicron patients we studied is relatively small, in the aggregate the data document the unusually rapid spread and increased occurrence of COVID-19 caused by the Omicron variant in metropolitan Houston, and provide information about disease character.

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