Understanding the omicron variant: How it impacts the COVID pandemic

‘We’re going to keep having these variants,’ expert says

There is global concern about what impact the omicron variant could have on the COVID pandemic.

DETROIT – There is global concern about what impact the omicron variant could have on the COVID pandemic. Experts agree that it’s only a matter of time until omicron is detected in the United States.

Local 4 spoke with University of Michigan Dr. Arnold Monto, the chair of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee.

“I’m concerned, but not panicked,” Monto said. “What we do know is that there are a number of changes in this virus. It is a different virus in many respects, even from the delta virus. But we don’t know what it’s going to do. And that’s the problem.”

Monto said we will learn more as scientists study how the virus is spreading in people and how it reacts in the laboratory.

“Delta just took over when it arrived and is omicron able to do that? We’ll know probably in the next few weeks,” Monto said.

Vaccine manufacturers are working on updated vaccines in case they’re needed. Monto believes the current vaccines will still provide a level of protection against serious illness and cautions people should not wait to get boosters. That extra protection is needed now.

“The issue is we’re going to keep having these variants and we’re probably going to have to treat this just like we do the flu with updated vaccines on a periodic basis,” Monto said.

Monto said he expects we will ultimately see a parade of variants. He is hopeful that COVID will someday behave more like the flu, with a seasonal pattern and fewer deaths.

Monto understands that nobody likes having to go backward in terms of social distancing, wearing masks and other precautions. Monto said unfortunately, we need to continue adjusting to the situation at hand as the pandemic continues to unfold.

Read: Complete Michigan COVID coverage

About the Author:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter and part of the Local 4 Defenders team.