As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Omicron—the latest and greatest Coronavirus variant—was designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) in November of 2021. Since that time it has started to rapidly spread throughout the country with the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimating it makes up 73 percent of all new infections in the United States and quickly becoming the dominant strain in many countries across the globe.
And while there is a lot that health experts are still trying to learn about Omicron, there is also a lot that they do know, and to help keep you and your families healthy, we would like to share that information.
You may be wondering why Omicron is receiving so much attention right now, and that’s because it is highly transmissible and less susceptible to vaccines than the prior variants—two to three times as likely to spread as Delta. Also, Omicron has shown an increased tendency to cause breakthrough infections among the vaccinated with immunity from previous infections providing little to no protection. In fact, preliminary research estimates the risk of reinfection with Omicron is about 5 times greater than other variants.
Obviously, that’s the bad news. But please keep reading, because there’s plenty of good news, too!
Vaccines still work
Fortunately, we still have the tools at our disposal needed to fight Omicron—and it starts with getting vaccinated.
Studies from abroad have already shown that the current COVID-19 vaccines remain the best way to protect against severe illness from Omicron infection, possibly reducing the risk of hospitalization by almost 70 percent. In fact, the emergence of Omicron serves as another important reminder of how critical it is for everyone to get fully vaccinated. In addition to keeping you healthy, getting vaccinated against COVID-19 helps to keep your community safe by slowing transmissions and reducing the chances that a new variant emerges.
Also encouraging is that initial research suggests Omicron is milder compared to the Delta variant with a lower percentage of Omicron infections leading to hospitalization—especially for the fully vaccinated.
Boosters and more
According to early studies, guess what helps to provide even more protection against hospitalization and severe illness from Omicron than two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. If you happened to guess two doses and a booster shot, then you’d be right! As a reminder, the CDC now recommends that everyone 5 years and older get fully vaccinated and recommends boosters for everyone 18 years and older—two months after the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and 6 months after the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna.
Other great ways to protect against the spread of Omicron are to regularly get tested and to always wear a mask in public indoor settings and areas of substantial or high community transmission—regardless of your vaccination status.
Ready to get vaccinated or a booster for COVID-19 and want help locating your closest community pharmacy? Just check out our directory!