The latest COVID variant Omicron has experts worried. Exhibiting more than its fair share of mutations, experts fear there are many unknowns to be discovered as the new variant spreads. In light of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised its previous recommendations regarding COVID booster shots, as a spokesperson announced that they are now encouraging anyone over 18 to get their booster.
“CDC is updating its recommendation on COVID-19 vaccinations: everyone 18 years and older should get a booster shot,” said director of the CDC Rochelle Walensky in a Tweet. “We have much to learn about the Omicron Variant, but we do know that COVID-19 vaccines are our best tool to avoid serious illness and hospitalization.”
Until now, the CDC’s stance on booster shots had been that the over 50s should be prioritized for receiving a third vaccine. Now, they’re asking that everyone over 18 seeks out a booster, waiting two months after their last Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or six months for the Pfizer or Moderna jabs.
The call for all adults to try and get triple vaccinated comes in the face of the Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant’s arrival, the latest variant of concern. The variant, which was first detected in South Africa, has now been reported in Belgium, Canada, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, and the UK where governments are ramping up restrictions such as mask-wearing and social distancing to try and control the outbreak.
While no cases have yet been confirmed in the US, Dr Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, expressed that it’s likely just a matter of time until it lands state-side. “I would not be surprised if it is [already in the US]” he told NBC.
So far, no deaths linked to the new variant have been reported, although the WHO cautions that the global risk is very high.
Omicron, home to 50 mutations – 30 of which center around the pivotal spike protein which enables COVID-19 to take hold – is a variant of concern due to the possibility that it might be immune-evading. If so, it could mean that the established immunity vaccinated and recovered people have might not be enough to prevent another infection which would likely be most severe in unvaccinated and immunocompromised persons.
Providing booster shots is one approach to overcome this, as by bolstering the number of antibodies present there’s a chance that even immunologically unrecognizable variants will still be kicked to the curb before they can do too much damage.
"The emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19," continued Walensky. "I strongly encourage the 47 million adults who are not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible."
[H/T: Wall Street Journal]