All viruses naturally can mutate. Mutations mean changes on different parts of a virus. Some mutations can make the virus spread faster, some can make them more dangerous. There is unfortunately no way of knowing what kinds of mutations can occur or how they will affect us until they happen.
The Omicron variant is a version of the COVID-19 virus that has had up to 50 mutations. It is concerning with so many changes that it will be more contagious and different enough from the original strain of the virus that the vaccines and treatments that we have, as well as our own natural antibodies from previous exposures, won’t be able to recognize this version.
There are a lot of unknowns about this variant. We don’t know how well the vaccines protect against it. We know that Moderna and Pfizer were up to 96% effective against the original strain. With the Delta strain the vaccines were about 60-70% effective but they still gave us enough protection that it decreased how severe the symptoms were as well as kept the majority of us out of the hospital. In two weeks, after further testing, we will have better idea of which vaccines will work best.
However, any protection is better than none. We need to make sure we are vaccinated and that we have our boosters done. If this variant is deadlier, then we must be ready for it. Moderna’s and Pfizer’s protection wears down after six months and Johnson & Johnson wears down in two months. Getting a booster now can mean feeling safe and being prepared. Personally, I would rather wear my seatbelt now in case of a car accident than wait and have no protection at all.
If you are exposed or feel sick, StarMed Healthcare offers cost-free testing in 29 counties in North Carolina with hundreds of locations to make sure you are safe. We have increased our testing staff so there are no long wait times. Our PCR results on average come back in 24 hours while our rapid tests provide results in 15 minutes. We can even test your antibodies to make sure you are protected with your vaccine.
If you do test positive for COVID-19 we have some treatments available that we did not have last year. We are able to treat you with monoclonal antibodies and soon with pills that can decrease the severity of the symptoms and decrease the chance of death and hospitalization. For more information and appointments, you can go to our website.
As we head into the holiday season, we want to make sure everyone can be around their loved ones in a safe and healthy environment. Please take the steps to ensure this by getting vaccinated, eating healthy, wearing masks and socially distancing as much as possible.
Dr. Arin Piramzadian, DO
StarMed Healthcare Chief Medical Officer