Should we be worried about the new omicron variant?

By The Health News Team | February 9, 2022
COVID-19 omicron variant

News surrounding COVID-19 seems to change daily. From expanded vaccine eligibility and prevention guidelines to new variants, the rate of change is stealth. So, too, is what some are calling the latest omicron subvariant.

The newest version of the omicron variant — the “stealth omicron” or BA.2 — is said to be more contagious than the original omicron variant. In fact, a recent study in Denmark found that people infected with the new variant are 33% more likely to infect others than those infected with the original omicron, known as BA.1.

However, the findings also reveal that the new omicron is not likely to cause more severe illness than original omicron- or delta-related infections. And people who are fully vaccinated and received a booster shot are far less likely to get infected by the new omicron and are significantly more protected against severe illness or hospitalization than people who are not vaccinated.

“News of the new omicron variant is more important to public health surveillance than it is to the general public,” says Dr. Abisola Olulade, a family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group. “To the lay person, it shouldn’t make a difference as to whether or not they get vaccinated and take other measures to stay protected — both are still incredibly important.”

COVID risks remain high
According to Dr. Olulade, the risks related to COVID infection remain high. This is especially true for people who are older, immunosuppressed, have other underlying medical conditions, or have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine and booster dose.

“The COVID-19 risk is still very high,” she says. “We are still seeing a lot of spread, the need for hospitalization, and deaths due to COVID-related complications. Additionally, COVID-19 continues to put a strain on hospitals across the country.”

In San Diego, the number of new cases has recently begun to decline. However, hospitalizations remain high and COVID-related deaths have increased. What’s more, experts wonder if the arrival of the new omicron variant could slow the latest decline in cases, but more time is needed to determine how it will affect local community spread.

“Regardless of which coronavirus variant we’re talking about, and what the current case numbers reveal, it is most important that we remain focused on getting everyone vaccinated and boosted as soon as they become eligible,” Dr. Olulade says.

Currently, everyone age 5 and older is eligible to receive a vaccine. Those age 5 and older who are fully vaccinated can also receive a booster shot.

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