New COVID variant Omicron causing alarm around the globe

Posted at 3:21 PM, Nov 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-29 17:48:45-05

(WXYZ) — Omicron concerns should spur millions of unvaccinated Americans to get their Covid shots, experts say.

The new coronavirus variant Omicron is causing alarm around the globe.  While no official cases have been confirmed here in the US, health experts are urging residents to get COVID-19 shots. 

Right now, the Omicron variant appears to be mild but very infectious. That’s according to initial reports from physicians in South Africa. But this strain is very new. And as you said, there is a lot we don’t know. Unfortunately, we need more data that includes cases from all age groups.

That’s when we’ll really have an understanding of how contagious this new strain is - and if it does or does not cause more severe disease. In the meantime, health experts, including myself, believe that our COVID-19 vaccines are our most effective mitigation tool. If you’re not vaccinated, now is the time to get the shots. If you’re fully vaccinated, be sure to get your booster when you’re eligible. Remember, boosters increase antibodies that fight the virus.

Omicron does have a significant number of mutations with quite a few on the spike protein.

The reason why I point that out is because our vaccines target the spike protein. These mutations could possibly cause issues.

Having said that, I don’t believe our vaccines will be useless. I do think they’ll continue to provide protection. Time will tell – science will reveal how well our vaccines work against Omicron. I know that Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are all investigating this new variant and how it might possibly impact their vaccines.

We should hear the results in a couple of weeks. In wrapping up, I do have a couple of important points I’d like to make. First of all, I don’t want folks to panic. Just because the new variant is spreading quickly in South Africa, does not mean that’ll happen here.

COVID cases have been pretty low in that country and only 35% of South African adults are fully vaccinated. Also, we’ve seen other variants with concerning mutations, but they were pushed out by the Delta variant. So that could be the case here in the US. Irrespective of that, we should be prepared.

That means getting vaccinated and getting your booster when it’s time. Which is six months after Pfizer and Moderna’s second dose, and two months after the Johnson & Johnson single dose shot.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

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