Coronavirus US: Does Omicron evade the vaccine?
The new variant has led to a spike in cases around the globe, and protection from two vaccines is not sufficient to ward off the virus.
The new variant, Omicron, poses another major risk to health after being discovered in South Africa. There are fears that the infectiousness of it is evading the vaccines already delivered, and these fears are proving true.
Imperial College London believes that the new variant evades immunity from past vaccine doses, as well as immunity gained from having previously contracted the virus. A report from the university says that the reinfection rate with Omicron is 5.4 times higher than the Delta variant. This would go some way to explain the high number of infections that are sweeping Europe with numbers that will soon be seen in the US.
The paper says: "Depending on the estimates used for vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic infection from the Delta variant, this translates into vaccine effectiveness estimates against symptomatic Omicron infection of between 0% and 20% after two doses, and between 55% and 80% after a booster dose. Similar estimates were obtained using genotype data, albeit with greater uncertainty." The paper has yet to be peer-reviewed.
Therefore, it can pretty safely be said that current vaccine protection, typically of two-doses, is not sufficient to protect people from the new variant. For a country like the US with low double-vaccination rates, only standing at 61.4 percent, this poses a large public health risk.
Can people be protected at all?
Like the study suggests, a booster dose for Omicron is currently the only vaccine protection that can be considered useful. Vaccination, and boosters, will strengthen immunity likely preventing serious illness the CDC stated, including the new variant. The health agency recommends that the 47 million Americans that still have not gotten a jab should do so as soon as possible.
Over 55 million have now received a booster shot according to CDC data.
How bad is Omicron around the world?
The WHO says it's only taking three days for Omicron cases to double, with the incidence rate increasing further. Countries around the world are increasing restrictions in the face of high vase numbers. The UK is expected to follow the lead of fellow Europeans Germany and France but adding more restrictions, while nations such as Israel are putting restrictions on who can enter the country to prevent the spread. The Levantine nation has just added the US to its list of "Red" travel countries.