New COVID variant: What’s omicron, the place has it unfold, are vaccines efficient?

New COVID variant: What is omicron, where has it spread, are vaccines effective?

The omicron variant is elevating international concern.


Sarah Tew/CNET

For probably the most up-to-date information and details about the coronavirus pandemic, go to the WHO and CDC web sites.

Only a week outdated, a brand new, notable variant of COVID-19 is now spreading across the globe: It is referred to as omicron, pronounced OH-me-cron. (You may hear Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, pronounce it this morning.) Infectious illness specialists are at present learning the brand new mutation for solutions to essential questions on how contagious it’s, how extreme its signs could also be and the way efficient the present COVID vaccines could also be towards it.

Up to now, the COVID-19 vaccines have proved to be extremely efficient in stopping hospitalization and dying, with people who find themselves unvaccinated 10 occasions extra prone to be hospitalized if contaminated. With federal vaccine mandates, the Biden administration goals to counter the surge and put stress on anybody who hasn’t been vaccinated. Antiviral medicine at present in growth may additionally assist counter severe results of COVID infections.

The omicron variant comes at a time when nations around the globe are persevering with to battle a surge in instances brought on by the delta variant. The coronavirus that swept the globe almost two years in the past continues to mutate in communities. The delta variant is at present the dominant COVID pressure globally.

Our data of the brand new omicron variant and its results continues to evolve shortly. Here is what scientists and vaccine-makers are saying in regards to the variant thus far, and what we nonetheless do not know. For extra info, this is what we find out about omicron and the Moderna booster and Pfizer booster, and what you want to find out about mixing and matching vaccines.


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What is the omicron COVID variant?

Discovered by scientists in South Africa last week, the omicron variant of coronavirus contains new mutations that they fear will allow it to spread even more quickly than the highly infectious delta variant. Scientists are testing whether omicron could cause breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated and reinfections for those who have antibodies from a prior COVID-19 infection.

“The emergence of the highly mutated omicron variant underlines just how perilous and precarious our situation is,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, in a briefing on Monday about the omicron variant.

Are the current vaccines effective against the omicron variant?

Scientists and vaccine-makers all say it could be two weeks before they have a better idea about how effective the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are in protecting against the omicron mutation and how easily it can evade protection. Early data from South Africa shows the new variant is causing a higher rate of breakthrough infections among people who received a full course of various COVID-19 vaccine brands.

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Drugmakers are exploring if the current vaccines are effective against the new variant.


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Are people getting sicker with the omicron variant?

Scientists may not have a solid answer for weeks, but early evidence suggests that the variant doesn’t cause more severe disease than previous variants, according to The New York Times

What are the vaccine-makers doing?

Moderna: Moderna’s Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton told the BBC his company has hundreds of people examining the effectiveness of its current vaccine and booster with the variant. Moderna is also testing a COVID-19 vaccine that could protect against several mutated strains of the coronavirus looking at an omicron-specific booster vaccine. Burton said if Moderna needs to make a new vaccine modified for the variant, it could be available early in 2022.

Pfizer: A Pfizer spokesperson said the company is “constantly conducting surveillance efforts focused on monitoring for emerging variants that potentially escape protection from our vaccine.”

The spokesperson said Pfizer could develop and produce a tailor-made vaccine against that variant in approximately 100 days.

Johnson & Johnson: In a statement, Johnson & Johnson said it’s working with scientists in South Africa and around the world to evaluate the effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine against the omicron variant and has begun work on a new vaccine designed for omicron, if needed.

Is the new omicron variant in the US and other countries?

“We have not detected it yet,” Fauci said during an NBC interview this weekend. “But when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility … it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over.”

The variant has been detected in other areas, including Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

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So far, omicron has not been detected in the US.


Sarah Tew/CNET

What is the Biden administration doing about the new variant?

In a speech Monday morning, Biden said his administration is looking into the mutation. “The new variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic,” he said. “We have the best vaccines in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we are learning more every single day.”

The US government is already working with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson to develop a plan to create vaccines and boosters tailored for new variants as they emerge.

For additional COVID guidance, here’s what to know about new travel restrictions, how to store your vaccine card on your phone and what to do if you lose your vaccine card.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

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