UAB infectious diseases expert discusses what we need to know about the Omicron variant

Published: Nov. 29, 2021 at 9:23 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Omicron variant is spreading to more countries and one local doctor said it’s only a matter of time before the new strain shows up in Alabama.

Director in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UAB, Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, said right now, it’s really a waiting game as scientists are still trying to figure out just how concerning the Omicron variant really is.

This variant has already spread to four continents including North America.

Researchers said there’s been a recent spike in COVID cases in South Africa, but it’s unclear if that is due to the Omicron variant, though doctors believe that is a reasonable assumption.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo said if there is a silver lining to this, it’s that so far, there have not been increases in hospitalizations and deaths in South Africa.

However, she said the concern with this variant is that there could be enough mutations to affect the way it binds to soft tissues in the nose, throat, and lungs, which would potentially make it more infectious than previous strains.

She also said there is potential that immunity from previous COVID infections, or the vaccines, may not be as effective against this strain.

“Yes. If it turns out that the current vaccines won’t do the trick, the vaccine manufacturers will very likely need to create a whole new vaccine, and this is very much kind of what we had talked about whether this was going to become a seasonal event, and every year we were going to have to get a new vaccine,” Dr. Marrazzo said.

Scientists have already started investigating the impact the new variant has on our current vaccines, and data is expected within the next couple of weeks.


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