A Viral New Variant

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.
  • 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.