January 29, 2022

Covid-19: “At Christmas, we were already at 40% positive tests linked to Omicron in Occitanie”, says virologist Jacques Izopet

the essential
While France exceeded, Saturday, December 25, the milestone of 100,000 new daily contaminations, Jacques Izopet, head of the virology department of the Toulouse University Hospital, takes stock of the epidemic situation in France.

What is the epidemic situation today in France?

Since mid-December, the 6e vague takes over from 5e delta wave which has now passed. This 6e is a wave of Omicron virus which presents particular characteristics: it is associated with significant contagiousness. We are only at the start of the wave and it is expected that there will be a large number of infections in the days and weeks to come. At Christmas, in Occitania, we were already 40% positive tests linked to Omicron.

What about hospital pressure?

It is evident that there is a disconnect between the circulation of the virus and hospital admissions. There is no proportionality, however we note that hospitalizations have been increasing for a few days. More and more, they are the work of Omicron. We hope that proportionally there will be fewer hospitalizations than what we could have had with another variant. For the moment, the hindsight is rather limited. It should also be noted that the population is increasingly vaccinated and that the injection of 3e dose will be essential to fight against this virus because it confers concentrations of antibodies much higher than what was induced by the 2e dose.

Jacques Izopet, head of the virology department at Toulouse University Hospital.

What part of the population is most affected by the Omicron virus?

According to the regional data that we have, for the moment, the Omicron virus is mainly diffused in the young population: from 20 to 40 years old. Perhaps because this is the age group most likely to meet. This was also the case for the Delta virus in recent weeks. One of the explanations could also be the dissemination of the 3e dose in the general population. This booster dose was recommended before in older people and we can also consider that these people are better protected.

Will we soon have to turn to a 4e dose ?

We can not predict the duration of effectiveness of the 3e dose. The recoil is not sufficient enough and there is very little work that has been done to say that it will take a 4e dose quickly. Here again, what is important is the benefit that this vaccination booster will bring in the days following the injection.

How do you see the coming January?

I am afraid that January will be difficult as we are going to face a large number of infections. The whole question is going to be to know what level of severity we will be faced with. Hoping that the lesser virulence of Omicron described by some will be confirmed. But given the large number of contaminations, there will be very, very important tensions in the hospital system.