The Omicron variant was recently designated as a variant of concern on November 26, 2021, by the World Health Organization (WHO). This new development raised many concerns with public health officials as researchers begin determining the virulence, current spread and potential for current vaccines to protect people from severe illness and death from it.
What is the Omicron Variant?
The Omicron (pronounced ah-muh-krann) variant, also known as B.1.1.529, is a SARS-CoV-2 mutation that was designated a variant of concern by WHO on November 26, 2021. Currently, there is uncertainty on the origin of the variant. Omicron was detected in the Netherlands on November 19th and is driving the rise in positive test rates in South Africa. Canada also reported six cases of the Omicron variant.
Are vaccines effective against the Omicron Variant?
Studies are underway to understand the effectiveness of current vaccines at protecting people from the Omicron variant. While this is a new variant, it’s important to remember that vaccines still are an important method to reducing severe illness and death from the dominant circulating variant, Delta.
How is the world addressing the Omicron Variant?
The situation is rapidly developing as countries and officials grasp the seriousness of the Omicron variant. Countries in the European Union started reinforcing travel restrictions while the Netherlands imposed tighter restrictions to reduce the potential spread. Canadian health officials plan to expand the travel ban on foreign travelers from countries in Africa. Finally, the United States is planning to implement a policy that requires international travelers to show proof of a negative COVID test taken no more than 24 hours prior to landing.
China also stated its plans to deliver more than one billion doses to the least vaccinated countries in the world which includes Africa. While researchers still need to determine how much protection current vaccines provide from the Omicron variant, they are still a necessary step to reduce the spread and mutations of the virus.
Where can I find the latest news?
Here are a few places you can keep up to date on the latest Omicron variant news: