“This mutation is unlikely to be more malicious and that the existing vaccines will most likely continue to be effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths.” Goldman said in a Friday evening note, “we do not think that the new variant is sufficient reason to make major portfolio changes.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) named the Omicron strain, which was discovered in South Africa less than a week ago, as a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26, sparking travel bans to several African nations. The WHO also explained why it disrupted its naming convention to skip naming the latest variant “Xi” in accordance the Greek alphabet, after critics said the U.N. health agency was attempting to appease the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In its note, Goldman wrote it “would monitor the situation in Gauteng closely over the next month, we do not think that the new variant is sufficient reason to make major portfolio changes.” Gauteng, a city in South Africa, appears to be the Omicron epicenter for now.
The WHO and top federal infectious diseases officials do not yet know if Omicron will re-infect previously infected individuals, or whether common COVID-19 vaccines work against it. Also unclear is if the variant causes more severe disease, although a top South African medical association doctor told news outlets that Omicron patients have had unusual but mild symptoms.
The variant, according to WHO, has a large number of mutations compared to the Alpha or Delta strain. South African scientists have said it has an unusual combination of mutations on the spike protein that may make the virus capable of evading vaccines.
Early evidence, the WHO said in a statement, suggests that Omicron has a higher risk of reinfection compared to other variants such as the Delta or the Alpha strain.
Starting Nov. 29, the United States will restrict travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
However, top COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci told outlets on Sunday that the variant will “inevitably” be in the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday said no cases of the strain have been confirmed in the country so far.
Over the weekend, several European countries said their respective health agencies confirmed Omicron cases.
The Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said Sunday that the variant was found during the sequencing of the 61 positive CCP virus results. The agency said that the sequencing “had not been entirely completed” and added it was “possible that the new variant will be found in more test samples.”
Mimi Nguyen-Ly contributed to this report.