What We Know – and Don’t -- About the Omicron COVID Variant

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Nov. 29, 2021 -- Health experts crossed the globe are raising concerns astir the recently discovered COVID-19 variant, Omicron, which was archetypal identified successful South Africa. The country’s curate of wellness announced past week that the variant had already dispersed successful antithetic areas of the country.

The adjacent day, the World Health Organization designated Omicron a “variant of concern.”

President Joe Biden echoed this connection astatine a news briefing today, but helium stressed that the caller variant is simply a “cause for concern, not a origin for panic.”

COVID-19 vaccine makers are looking into the vaccine’s extortion against the caller variant.

“The mutations successful the Omicron variant are concerning, and for respective days, we person been moving arsenic accelerated arsenic imaginable to execute our strategy to code this variant,” Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, said successful a statement.

Pfizer says that information astir its vaccine’s extortion against Omicron should beryllium released successful the coming weeks.

A fig of countries are making efforts to forestall the planetary dispersed of Omicron. The U.S. is conscionable 1 of a fig of countries that person placed caller question restrictions connected South Africa and its neighboring countries.

So, what makes Omicron antithetic from different COVID-19 variants? And however acrophobic should we be? Health experts assistance america interruption it down. And spell present to larn much astir COVID-19 variants

What Do We Know About the Omicron Variant So Far?

There is simply a batch that we don’t cognize astir Omicron, including whether it causes much terrible unwellness than different variants, says Leana Wen, MD, an exigency doc and nationalist wellness prof astatine George Washington University.

But what we bash cognize is that it is simply a variant with an unusually precocious fig of mutations, oregon changes successful the virus’s familial material.

Early grounds besides shows that the Omicron variant whitethorn dispersed easier than different COVID-19 variants, she says.

“That’s precise concerning due to the fact that Delta, which is the ascendant variant present successful the U.S. and astir the world, is already highly contagious. So, if this is adjacent much contagious, it could displace the Delta variant,” says Wen.

Is the Omicron Variant successful the US?

As of close now, nary cases of the Omicron variant person been reported successful the US.

Either way, you should enactment calm, says William Schaffner, MD, a prof of preventive medicine and infectious diseases astatine Vanderbilt University Medical Center successful Nashville.

“Even if it were to beryllium present successful the United States, the ascendant -- the 99% that is causing illness successful your assemblage contiguous -- that strain is Delta,” helium says.

“And we cognize the vaccines enactment against Delta.”

Will COVID-19 vaccines supply capable extortion against the Omicron variant?

“We don’t cognize whether the ample fig of mutations renders the vaccines little effectual against this variant,” says Wen.

“Although galore scientists judge -- particularly with a booster changeable -- that it’s not going to render the vaccines ineffective.”

What are communal symptoms of the Omicron variant?

We don’t person that accusation yet, says Wen.

With truthful overmuch inactive unknown, what tin I bash close present to support my household and I from the Omicron variant?

If you are inactive weighing whether you should get a COVID-19 shot, the Omicron variant is 1 large crushed to get vaccinated arsenic soon arsenic possible, Wen says.

“That includes adolescents and children 5 to 11.”

This is besides a large clip to get your COVID-19 booster, according to Schaffner.

Booster shots rise your antibody levels, which offers you some longer extortion and stronger immune effect against COVID-19 variants, helium says.

“I can’t archer you precisely what it [a booster shot] volition bash against Omicron, but determination is apt to be, astatine the precise least, partial protection,” Schaffer says.

“And partial extortion is ever amended than nary protection.”

What Should I Be Most Concerned About With the Omicron Variant?

Virus spread, superior illness, and vaccine effectiveness enactment manus successful hand. Therefore, each 3 are concerning, Wen says.

“Let’s accidental that thing is much transmissible, but it doesn’t origin much terrible illness and the vaccines enactment precise good against it. That’s not peculiarly concerning,” says Wen.

“Or, if thing is not precise contagious but it’s inactive much severe, it’s besides not arsenic concerning due to the fact that it’s not going to displace Delta.”

“So, it truly is simply a operation of these factors that could marque this variant precise worrisome.”

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