Initial research carried out in South Africa shows that a third dose of coronavirus vaccine helps against the Omicron variant and vaccinated people infected with the new strain tend to have lighter cases, virology professor and government scientific council head Irja Lutsar said.
"We have read studies and they have shown that antibody neutralization capacity decreases against the Omicron variant. But at the same time, other studies show that it only happens in the case of two vaccine doses, but does not happen if a third has been administered. Therefore, booster doses help," Lutsar said on ETV's morning show "Terevisioon" on Thursday.
"This shows the importance of booster doses," the virologist added.
The professor said she does not agree with a statement made by the World Health Organization (WHO), in which the organization said booster doses are not necessary, but she said it likely stems from there not being enough vaccines in third world countries and the WHO trying to avoid vaccine shortages.
Lutsar noted that everyone infected with the Omicron variant has had light cases. "That is what South Africa reports, they have many people hospitalized, but the people hospitalized are mostly there for other reasons and less than 20 percent need supplemental oxygen. This differs greatly from previous waves, during which most hospitalized patients required oxygen," the virologist said.
Initial data from Europe has suggested the same, Lutsar said. "But the virus has reached Europe mainly through travelers, they tend to be younger and healthier people, which is why we do not know if their light cases have stemmed from their stronger organisms and immunities or the Omicron variant," the scientific council chief said.
On Wednesday, Health Board infectious diseases department head Hanna Sepp said there have been 12 cases of the Omicron variant discovered in Estonia. The source of infection is unknown for two of the cases, which could refer to intra-Estonian spread.
Most of the cases stem from travel to South Africa, but one case is from Duba and one from Tanzania. Sepp added that the Omicron strain becoming the dominant strain in Estonia is likely, because it spreads faster than the Delta variant.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste