Today, nearly 2 years after the initial Covid-19 case was identified, the infectious virus is still spreading around the world, killing thousands daily, and yes- evolving. While it has made many mutations, its most recent variant is Omicron, which was first discovered on November 24th, 2021.
What do we know so far?
The newest Coronavirus variant- Omicron, which was first identified in South Africa, could quite possibly be the most contagious one thus far. Omicron is theorized to have evolved from the Delta variant. Omicron is different from any other Coronavirus variant we’ve seen in the past. It carries about 50 different mutations. More than half of these mutations are unique to Omicron.
Although not much is known about the variant yet, our current data indicates the following-
- Higher transmissibility rate than any other Covid variant
- Reinfection rate increase
- Reduced antibody protection
- Mild symptoms
- Resist vaccine to some extent
How soon can we expect a vaccine?
As we’ve seen with previous Covid mutations, variant-specific vaccines have not yet been necessary. With Beta and Delta, scientists had initially worked on vaccines for each particular variant, however, quickly realized that the preexisting vaccine was sufficient enough to protect against them both. It’s not certain yet whether a variant-specific vaccine for omicron will be necessary. Nevertheless, researchers have already begun the work. Pfizer and BioNTech could potentially tweak their current vaccine for Omicron within the next 100 days. Moderna predicts they’ll be able to begin making and testing an Omicron vaccine within the next two to three months. Some of Omicron’s mutations may support its ability to partially evade the current Coronavirus vaccine. However, this does not mean the vaccine has no effect on the new variant. Studies show that about 90% of those infected with Omicron were unvaccinated.
What are the symptoms?
So far, those who have been infected with Omicron report less-severe symptoms than those with other Covid variants.
- Slight cough
- Shortness of breath
In addition to the usual Covid symptoms:
- Stomach pain
- Sore throat
- Loss of taste
- Loss of smell
The United States has implemented travel restrictions on several South African countries since the first Omicron case was discovered. Unfortunately however, there have still been multiple reported cases of the variant in the US throughout various states over the past few days. There is still a lot of research to be done on the mutations, but experts have already dubbed it a variant of concern.