TAMPA, Fla. — The World Health Organization warned that omicron is spreading faster than any other variant.
“I do see more omicron being detected in more states,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Associate Professor for the University of Florida College of Public Health.
The first confirmed case of omicron was detected in the United States on December 1 in California. In the two weeks since then, at least 32 states have detected the new variant so far.
Scientists are watching trends of what’s happening with omicron in other countries to help predict what will happen here.
“What we’ve actually been seeing is over in Europe is it’s quickly replacing delta. So I think it would be a pretty safe guess that its transmissibility is higher than delta,” said Roberts.
The U.K. is reporting a higher chance of reinfection with omicron.
The European Commission President says omicron is expected to become the dominant variant in Europe by mid-January.
While we still have mostly delta cases here, experts predict omicron will become the dominant strain in the U.S. too.
“I think as we continue to keep testing we’re going to see it definitely become the dominant strain at some point,” said Roberts.
A new study from South Africa indicates the Pfizer vaccine is about 33% effective against omicron.
“What we’ve seen so far in the laboratory it would suggest that that third booster shot is really necessary,” said Roberts.
Doctors are pushing for people to get booster shots for that extra protection.
“It looks like antibody levels drop pretty significantly after just two shots and so with just the two shots the protection against omicron is going to probably be pretty low but once you add the third shot it’s really high,” said Roberts.
Researchers are seeing breakthrough cases of omicron in fully vaccinated people, but the good news is most of those cases have been mild.
“We do know most of the people that did get the omicron variant actually were vaccinated at one point and they also had very slight disease, very mild symptoms etc.,” said Roberts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say scientists worldwide are working to determine if existing treatments for COVID-19 will work with this new strain.
The latest results from Pfizer showed its pill reduced hospitalizations by 89% if given within a few days of the first symptoms. Experts believe it will work regardless of the strain.
Although this pill could be a great tool to keep people from getting severely sick if authorized, doctors say it’s not a replacement for a vaccine.
“It’s not the point we want to get to. In public health, we stress massively prevention. Prevent it, prevent it, prevent it, prevent it. Because just because that particular pill actually prevented you from getting hospitalized doesn’t mean it prevents the side effects, does not prevent the long-term COVID, does not prevent all these kinds of other things that happen,” said Roberts.