On the latest episode of The Hill’s “Rising,” journalist and political commentator Kim Iversen discussed the new Omicron variant and COVID vaccine hesitancy in South Africa, where COVID spread and hospitalizations are low.

Is the panic surrounding the Omicron variant overblown? That’s the question journalist and political commentator Kim Iversen asked on the latest episode of The Hill’s “Rising.”

Iversen noted how after news outlets reported on the new variant, the stock market fell, countries closed down their borders and travel bans were placed on South African countries.

“Doctors treating Omicron patients in South Africa [are] saying the variant presents with such mild symptoms that the hype makes no sense,” said Iversen.

South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla accused countries that enacted travel bans and closed borders of “knee jerk reactions.”

The chairwoman of the African Medical Association, which is currently monitoring patients who have the Omicron variant, said the variant “presents very mild disease … with no prominent symptoms” other than a “slight cough.”

“The fingers are being pointed at the under-vaccinated and the unvaccinated” in Africa, Iversen said. “The idea is that if the virus is able to spread unabated more variants will form.”

But what gives people the idea that Africa has high levels of spread, Iversen asked?

“People assume that because Africa has extremely low vaccination rates the virus must be running rampant on the continent,” she said.

While it’s true the continent has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the world, with only 6% fully vaccinated, the World Health Organization has consistently described Africa as “one of the least-affected regions in the world” in its weekly pandemic reports.

Despite extremely low spread and hospitalizations, Iversen explained, “the narrative that’s currently circulating is the reason we ended up with Omicron is because of poor vaccination rates in Africa.”

Read the rest of Kim Iverson’s article on The Defender