A maelstrom of breathless headlines about Omicron has dominated the post-Thanksgiving news cycle. Nearly every outlet has run an article reporting how little we know about Omicron— including how to pronounce it.
Here’s what we do know:
- The new Omicron variant appears to be highly transmissible. But it is too early to discern how the Omicron variant impacts the efficacy of available COVID-19 vaccines in preventing infection, serious illness and death.
- Researchers are already working to develop an Omicron specific vaccine, and vaccine makers say an Omicron specific booster could be available soon. However, due to global vaccine inequity, people living in poorer nations will remain at-risk— both of Omicron and new potential variants.
- Despite commitments from developed nations to donate excess doses – including 1 billion Pfizer shots purchased by the United States for the rest of the world – only half a billion doses have reached developing nations. Unless under-vaccinated regions of the world see an uptick in immunizations, experts warn that the virus will continue to mutate and spread.
- The new strain has been detected in Canada, several European countries, Israel, Hong Kong and Australia. Despite the global spread, a growing number of countries around the world have been met with criticism from the World Health Organization for restricting travel from southern African nations.
- In the U.S., businesses are once again awaiting guidance and considering necessary shifts in pandemic response and workflow to keep employees safe.
- Amid uncertainty around the Omicron variant, the CDC has strengthened its guidance around boosters to encourage all adults to get a booster shot.