The good and bad news about the omicron variant

“The omicron variant, the latest curveball in the pandemic, may lead to less severe cases of Covid-19 than earlier strains of the coronavirus, according to one of the largest real-world studies of omicron released so far.

That’s good news, but it could be overshadowed by other data showing that the variant is far more contagious than any version of the virus to date — and that it can evade some immune protection from vaccines and prior infection.

Taken together, these traits make for a counterintuitive situation: Omicron poses a lower risk to most individuals, at least for those who are vaccinated, but the threat to the overall population is high. The question now is whether omicron will infect so many people that it overwhelms the health care system and drives up hospitalizations and deaths — in spite of the smaller percentage of people who come down with severe disease.

The answer is partly in our hands. The strategies that have contained Covid-19 throughout the pandemic still work against omicron, but governments, institutions, and individuals have to be willing to use them.”

Booster Shots Appear To Offer Protection Against Omicron COVID-19 Variant

“Preliminary laboratory research by Pfizer/BioNTech finds that a third booster shot of its COVID-19 vaccine successfully neutralizes—that is, blocks—the omicron variant of the virus from entering and infecting cells. The researchers tested the new variant against antibodies produced by people one month after they had been inoculated with a third booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. They report that the boosted level of antibodies “provides a similar level of neutralizing antibodies to Omicron as is observed after two doses against wild-type and other variants that emerged before Omicron. These antibody levels are associated with high efficacy against both the wild-type virus and these variants.””

“Keep firmly in mind that these are very preliminary laboratory results that need to be confirmed by real-world epidemiological evidence with respect to breakthrough infections and disease severity. Nevertheless, these results corroborate that people who have already gotten two doses of COVID-19 vaccines or have already recovered from a prior COVID-19 infection should go get a booster shot and that people who are not yet fully vaccinated should delay no further.
In case these lab results don’t hold up in the real world, vaccine makers are already working on tweaks to their inoculations that specifically target the omicron variant. The updated vaccines could become available as early as March 2022.”