Just as we were getting used to the Delta variant, here comes Omicron…
What does that mean for you and your kids?
What to Know About the Omicron Variant
Omicron was first detected by the WHO in November 2021 and quickly labeled as a COVID variant of concern.
In just over two weeks (Dec 1), a case of Omicron was detected in the United States.
“The first U.S. case of COVID-19 attributed to the Omicron variant was detected on December 1, 2021. Among the cases described in this report, the earliest report of symptom onset was November 15.”SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529 (Omicron) Variant — United States, December 1–8, 2021
And it has since become the dominate COVID strain in the United States, quickly overtaking Delta.
“Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.”Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know
That’s not too surprising once you learn that Omicron has about 50 mutations, including about 30 around the spike protein!
“The omicron variant has significantly more mutations than previous SARS-CoV-2 variants, particularly in its S-gene, the gene that encodes the virus’s spike protein.”SARS-CoV-2 Viral Mutations: Impact on COVID-19 Tests
Fortunately, while we still have a lot to learn about Omicron, we do expect our current vaccines to work, at least to prevent severe COVID disease, hospitalizations, and death in those who are fully vaccinated, including a booster dose.
But then why were the first cases in the United States in folks who were vaccinated?
Of course it is because those who aren’t vaccinated likely aren’t able to travel out of the country, and so don’t have the chance to catch a new variant!
Other things to know about Omicron:
- there is a concern that Omicron might spread even more easily than Delta, but it is important to understand that we still don’t know if Omicron is more transmissible or if it causes more severe disease than other variants.
- we don’t yet know if Omicron is more transmissible in young children – it may just be that we are seeing more COVID disease in kids right now because they are the biggest group to still be unvaccinated, as we wait for COVID vaccines to be authorized for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers
- while our current COVID tests (rapid and PCR) do work to tell if you have COVID when you are sick with the Omicron strain, they won’t actually tell you if you have Omicron, Delta, or some other strain. You need specialized testing that the average health care provider typically can’t do to determine the exact strain a patient has.
- COVID vaccines authorized in the United States do protect against Omicron, but best protection comes after a booster dose
- some monoclonal antibody treatments may lose potency against Omicron
- only one monoclonal antibody treatment, Sotrovimab, is thought to be effective against Omicron
- Omicron may have evolved in someone who was immunocompromised, which allowed the virus to replicate, mutate, and evolve for many months, as their body was unable to fight off their infection
And of course, handwashing, masks, and social distancing work against all COVID variants!
Omicron almost certainly won’t be the last variant we see…
Get vaccinated and protected.
More on COVID Variants
- Mass Vaccination is Not Creating COVID Variants
- It’s Not Just the Disinformation Dozen
- About Those Urgent COVID-19 Vaccine Safety Warnings
- COVID-19 Vaccination Questions and Answers
- The Truth About COVID-19 Vaccines
- I’m Not Anti-Vaccine, I Just Don’t Believe in the COVID-19 Vaccine
- Ask 8 Questions Before You Skip a Vaccine
- CDC – Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know
- CDC – Science Brief: Omicron (B.1.1.529) Variant
- MMWR – SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.529 (Omicron) Variant — United States, December 1–8, 2021
- WHO – Update on Omicron
- WHO – Tracking SARS-CoV-2 variants
- What we know about the Omicron variant
- Latest on Omicron Variant and COVID-19 Vaccine Protection
- FDA – Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of Sotrovimab
- FDA – SARS-CoV-2 Viral Mutations: Impact on COVID-19 Tests
- 25 states report Omicron COVID-19; most cases mild
- How did the omicron coronavirus variant evolve to be so dangerous?
- The mystery of where omicron came from — and why it matters
- Omicron COVID-19 variant and children: What parents should know
- Geert Vanden Bossche is back and still blaming vaccines for COVID-19 variants
- Why do we need COVID vaccine boosters for the Omicron variant?
- The Omicron Variant: a summary of what we know so far (with a focus on what we don’t)