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Preprint in English | EMBASE | ID: ppcovidwho-326897


The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) epidemic in southern Africa has been characterised by three distinct waves. The first was associated with a mix of SARS-CoV-2 lineages, whilst the second and third waves were driven by the Beta and Delta variants respectively1–3. In November 2021, genomic surveillance teams in South Africa and Botswana detected a new SARS-CoV-2 variant associated with a rapid resurgence of infections in Gauteng Province, South Africa. Within three days of the first genome being uploaded, it was designated a variant of concern (Omicron) by the World Health Organization and, within three weeks, had been identified in 87 countries. The Omicron variant is exceptional for carrying over 30 mutations in the spike glycoprotein, predicted to influence antibody neutralization and spike function4. Here, we describe the genomic profile and early transmission dynamics of Omicron, highlighting the rapid spread in regions with high levels of population immunity.

PubMed; 2021.
Preprint in English | PubMed | ID: ppcovidwho-297031


Estimating an infectious disease attack rate requires inference on the number of reported symptomatic cases of a disease, the number of unreported symptomatic cases, and the number of asymptomatic infections. Population-level immunity can then be estimated as the attack rate plus the number of vaccine recipients who had not been previously infected;this requires an estimate of the fraction of vaccines that were distributed to seropositive individuals. To estimate attack rates and population immunity in southern New England, we fit a validated dynamic epidemiological model to case, clinical, and death data streams reported by Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut for the first 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, from March 1 2020 to May 31 2021. This period includes the initial spring 2020 wave, the major winter wave of 2020-2021, and the lagging wave of lineage B.1.1.7(Alpha) infections during March-April 2021. In autumn 2020, SARS-CoV-2 population immunity (equal to the attack rate at that point) in southern New England was still below 15%, setting the stage for a large winter wave. After the roll-out of vaccines in early 2021, population immunity in many states was expected to approach 70% by spring 2021, with more than half of this immune population coming from vaccinations. Our population immunity estimates for May 31 2021 are 73.4% (95% CrI: 72.9% - 74.1%) for Rhode Island, 64.1% (95% CrI: 64.0% - 64.4%) for Connecticut, and 66.3% (95% CrI: 65.9% - 66.9%) for Massachusetts, indicating that >33% of southern Englanders were still susceptible to infection when the Delta variant began spreading in July 2021. Despite high vaccine coverage in these states, population immunity in summer 2021 was lower than planned due to 34% (Rhode Island), 25% (Connecticut), and 28% (Massachusetts) of vaccine distribution going to seropositive individuals. Future emergency-setting vaccination planning will likely have to consider over-vaccination as a strategy to ensure that high levels of population immunity are reached during the course of an ongoing epidemic.

PUBMED; 2021.
Preprint in English | PUBMED | ID: ppcovidwho-293174


In the United States, state-level re-openings in spring 2020 presented an opportunity for the resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. One important question during this time was whether human contact and mixing patterns could increase gradually without increasing viral transmission, the rationale being that new mixing patterns would likely be associated with improved distancing, masking, and hygiene practices. A second key question to follow during this time was whether clinical characteristics of the epidemic would improve after the initial surge of cases. Here, we analyze age-structured case, hospitalization, and death time series from three states - Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania - that had successful re-openings in May 2020 without summer waves of infection. Using a Bayesian inference framework on eleven daily data streams and flexible daily population contact parameters, we show that population-average mixing rates dropped by >50% during the lockdown period in March/April, and that the correlation between overall population mobility and transmission-capable mobility was broken in May as these states partially re-opened. We estimate the reporting rates (fraction of symptomatic cases reporting to health system) at 96.0% (RI), 72.1% (MA), and 75.5% (PA);in Rhode Island, when accounting for cases caught through general-population screening programs, the reporting rate estimate is 94.5%. We show that elderly individuals were less able to reduce contacts during the lockdown period when compared to younger individuals. Attack rate estimates through August 31 2020 are 6.4% (95% CI: 5.8% - 7.3%) of the total population infected for Rhode Island, 5.7% (95% CI: 5.0% - 6.8%) in Massachusetts, and 3.7% (95% CI: 3.1% - 4.5%) in Pennsylvania, with some validation available through published seroprevalence studies. Infection fatality rates (IFR) estimates for the spring epidemic are higher in our analysis (>2%) than previously reported values, likely resulting from the epidemics in these three states affecting the most vulnerable sub-populations, especially the most vulnerable of the >=80 age group.