DETROIT – Experts are concerned that a new variant of COVID-19, “omicron,” could possibly be even more contagious than the delta variant and more resistant to vaccinations.
The new COVID strain was named by the World Health Organization. It was first reported this week in South Africa and has started surfacing in other countries.
Starting Monday (Nov. 29), the United States is banning travel by non-U.S. citizens from South Africa and seven other African nations.
“I think it really is a big deal,” said Dr. Matthew Sims, the director of infectious disease research at Beaumont. “Concern No. 1 is that it’s going to be even more contagious than delta. Concern No. 2 is that the vaccine and the antibodies may not work as well.”
Omicron is believed to be the strongest COVID variant yet.
Pfizer officials said if necessary, they can adapt their vaccine within six weeks.
“If this new variant has to have a new vaccine, people are going to need to get that vaccine,” Sims said. “I will tell you I’ll be first in line. My wife will be next to me, and my kids will be right behind me.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci agreed.
“This will be highly transmissible and might in fact escape some of the immune parameters, such as monoclonal antibodies and convalescent serum and plasma when people recover, and likely even some protection from the antibodies that are induced by vaccination,” Fauci said. “So we’re taking it very, very seriously.”
Experts said to end the COVID pandemic, much higher vaccination levels are necessary so the virus can’t spread and continue to mutate.
“We probably need 90%,” Sims said. “We need as close as we can get to 100% vaccination as we can get. How did we get rid of smallpox? Because everybody lined up and got their vaccine.”