Omicron Virus and What You Need to Know

COVID vaccine testing

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COVID vaccine testing

Audrey Rivero, Reporter

The South African Omicron variant of Covid-19 is beginning to gain some traction not just in the media but in the medical community as well, with over a hundred reported cases worldwide. However, despite the growing belief that we, globally, are going back to “square one” of the pandemic, the research is still far too new to call it.

According to Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Health Expert, “With new variants, there are three key questions to ask.” Those questions, narrowed down: is it more transmissible, is it more virulent, and does it escape immunity?

Essentially, what those questions are asking is if the disease is more contagious, is it more dangerous, and is it resilient against the vaccine? The issue with the former Delta variant was that it was far more contagious, meaning it inevitably knocked out former variants, becoming the dominant. Thus far, Omicron has yet to become dominant, but the speed at which it moves is raising concerns.

Scientists have yet to find conclusive evidence on the level of transmission. There are really only two pressing concerns as of now on the Omicron variant, as mentioned before, the rate at which it spreads and multiplies and the rate it mutates. The mutation rate plays directly into the efficacy of the vaccine, as these many mutations lead to different strains of the virus.

Thus, when there’s so many strains, it’s possible for a vaccine to be rendered ineffective. This is, however, is unlikely. Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor,¬†and other professionals are working over the coming days and weeks to find conclusive information; however, the current vaccines and antibodies will likely cover the Omicron variant.

Although research is new, the sudden resurgence of containment, whether through travel bans or otherwise, is warranted. The pandemic has been a large issue of the world, particularly the United States, being grossly underprepared for COVID. Officials are strongly recommending that as a community we maintain our routines of constant hand washing and mask mandates.