Present day omicron update: New Pfizer booster advice, signs or symptoms, what we continue to will not know

The omicron variant is increasing worldwide worry.

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Detected in at least 20 states and 57 nations around the world, the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus carries on to distribute across the US and the planet, with a escalating problem how simply the mutated virus can be distribute from man or woman to human being and evade vaccine safety.

Specialists warning it could be weeks right before we know specifically how contagious omicron is and if it can cause much more extreme sickness than other mutations of the virus. But Pfizer and BioNTech claimed really early knowledge suggests individuals who have been given two doses of their vaccine most probable will not have important security from omicron. A Pfizer booster shot can restore the vaccine’s defenses.

In the US, President Joe Biden is doubling down on urging vaccines and booster photographs until finally more details on the new variant becomes readily available. As a consequence, the US administered 12.5 million shots in the last 7 days, in accordance to Jeff Zients, the White Dwelling coronavirus response coordinator. That is the best number of weekly photographs considering the fact that May possibly. Seven million of these had been booster photographs, Zients reported.

So much, the COVID-19 vaccines have proved to be really effective in stopping hospitalization and dying, with men and women who are unvaccinated remaining much more than 10 times much more possible to be hospitalized if infected. Vaccine-makers are optimistic the present-day vaccines authorized for use in the US will present a diploma of safety versus omicron, as well.

In this article are eight vital issues to know about omicron today. For a lot more on COVID boosters, this is a trick to effortlessly get an appointment and a totally free ride. Here’s how you may shortly get a COVID exam package for free of charge and information on mixing and matching vaccines.

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A Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine booster may be needed to guard against omicron

On Wednesday, BioNTech scientists said two doses of the vaccine it developed with Pfizer may not be enough to defend against the omicron variant and three doses — the first two shots and a booster — may be needed to restore protection.

“Individuals who have received two vaccines will most likely not have significant prevention from infection or any type of disease [from the new variant],” said Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s chief executive officer during the Wednesday briefing. Sahin said more information is needed to confirm its initial laboratory findings that indicate a third Pfizer vaccine dose is important to guard against the variant.

Last week, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said all COVID vaccines may have decreased protection against the variant. CNET reached out to Moderna for an update but didn’t immediately get a response.

Drug-makers could create an omicron-specific vaccine if needed

It could take weeks to know for certain how effective the current vaccines are against the omicron variant. But Pfizer/BioNTech,  Moderna and Johnson & Johnson say they are already gearing up to create a vaccine designed to combat omicron if needed.

Moderna said it could have vaccine candidates ready for trial in 60 to 90 days. Pfizer said it could have a new vaccine ready by March, pending regulator authorization. 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.

Early signs suggest the new COVID variant may spread more easily than delta

It could still be two or three weeks till we know more about how easily omicron can be passed between people and how resistant the mutated virus is against the current crop of vaccines, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president, on Tuesday at a White House briefing said that early data also suggests omicron could be more infectious than the delta variant and is replacing delta as the dominant COVID strain in South Africa.

Omicron confirmed in 20 US states

It surfaced last week in California and Minnesota. Now the variant has been detected in 20 states across the country, from Washington to Mississippi and Texas to Utah. The US and other countries were already bracing for an increased caseload as colder weather and holiday gatherings brought more people indoors together. Now, projections of a winter surge of the dominant delta variant join concerns about omicron’s spread.

Add to that increasing flu infections, and experts worry about a “twindemic,” of the two illnesses.

Omicron could become the dominant COVID variant in Europe in months

In Europe, omicron could become the most common COVID variant in months, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

“Mathematical modelling indicates that the Omicron VOC is expected to cause over half of all SARS-CoV-2 infections in the EU/EEA within the next few months” due to early understandings of the omicron variant’s high transmissibility between people, the body said in a Dec. 2 briefing (PDF). 

Scientists studying the omicron variant in South Africa, where it was first reported to the World Health Organization, have said it’s spreading more than twice as fast as the delta variant. But what isn’t yet known is whether the spread is hastened because the mutations make it easier to spread among people, if vaccines are less effective against this strain or for some other reason. The study cited by The New York Times has not yet been published or peer-reviewed.

Omicron has similarities to the delta variant’s mutation

COVID latches onto cells using a spike protein in its structure. Omicron has more mutations than the delta variant, which is considered at least twice as contagious as previous strains. While it isn’t clear yet if omicron is more or less contagious than delta, the presence of those mutations is one cause of concern. 

That may be one reason countries around the world have banned travel from some countries in southern Africa and increased travel restrictions that include a negative COVID test 24 hours before travel, regardless of vaccination status.


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

COVID PCR tests can identify the omicron variant

Most PCR tests to identify the presence of COVID-19 in the body are free (COVID tests for international travel are the main exception). So it’s good news that the existing nasal swab test has been found to detect the omicron variant — a blood test or other procedure so far is unnecessary.

“Fortunately for us, the PCRs that we mostly use would pick up this very unusual variant that has a real large constellation of mutations,” Fauci said Nov. 29 in a press briefing.

Booster shots and vaccines are urged to help prevent omicron’s spread

On Dec. 2, Biden announced a plan to help protect the US against the omicron variant this winter. It includes:

  • Outreach programs to contact people eligible to receive booster shots.
  • Making at-home COVID tests “free” for everyone.
  • Tighter travel restrictions that require a negative COVID test 24 hours before departure.
  • Paid time off for federal workers to get booster shots.
  • Securing antiviral pills as a treatment for people who become infected with COVID-19 (these are recommended but not yet FDA approved).
  • Sending 200 million more doses of COVID vaccine to international countries in the next 100 days (280 million have already been sent).

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.