DETROIT – Omicron is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the United States and accounted for 73% of new infections last week, according to federal health officials.
Health officials are expecting to see an increase in breakthrough infections as the virus spreads through communities. While breakthrough infections are not as likely to cause severe illness, it’s still important to stop the spread to protect the most vulnerable.
Moderna said its COVID-19 booster does appear to provide protection against the omicron variant. The drug company said preliminary data from lab testing found the version of its booster currently in use in the United States provided a 37 fold increase in antibody levels to neutralize the virus.
Pfizer had previously released early data suggesting its booster was also effective at increasing the protection against omicron.
The FDA is still monitoring the effectiveness of COVID-19 tests at detecting the omicron variant. Three PCR tests that were previously authorized for use by some labs have been found to be ineffective at detecting the new variant. Only one of the three tests had been distributed to a lab in Michigan.
The tests were more susceptible to fail because they were looking for fewer areas of the virus’ genetic code. The more reliable PCR tests, typically used in larger labs, look for three areas of the genetic code. No home antigen tests have been found to have a problem detecting omicron.
A research letter published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has some good news for vaccinated people who find themselves infected. The paper looked at 26 fully-vaccinated healthcare workers who developed breakthrough infections and found a substantial boost to immunity.