Authors: Davies MA, Morden E, Rosseau P, Arendse J, Bam JL, Cloete K et al.

PMID: 36436752 PMCID: PMC9686046 DOI: 10.1016/j.ijid.2022.11.024


Objectives: We aimed to compare the clinical severity of Omicron BA.4/BA.5 infection with BA.1 and earlier variant infections among laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 cases in the Western Cape, South Africa, using timing of infection to infer the lineage/variant causing infection.

Methods: We included public sector patients aged ≥20 years with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 between May 01-May 21, 2022 (BA.4/BA.5 wave) and equivalent previous wave periods. We compared the risk between waves of (i) death and (ii) severe hospitalization/death (all within 21 days of diagnosis) using Cox regression adjusted for demographics, comorbidities, admission pressure, vaccination, and previous infection.

Results: Among 3793 patients from the BA.4/BA.5 wave and 190,836 patients from previous waves, the risk of severe hospitalization/death was similar in the BA.4/BA.5 and BA.1 waves (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 1.12; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.93; 1.34). Both Omicron waves had a lower risk of severe outcomes than previous waves. Previous infection (aHR 0.29, 95% CI 0.24; 0.36) and vaccination (aHR 0.17; 95% CI 0.07; 0.40 for at least three doses vs no vaccine) were protective.

Conclusion: Disease severity was similar among diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the BA.4/BA.5 and BA.1 periods in the context of growing immunity against SARS-CoV-2 due to previous infection and vaccination, both of which were strongly protective.

Keywords: BA.4; BA.5; COVID-19; Death, Severe hospitalization; Omicron.

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