The emergence of a new COVID-19 variant, omicron, has heightened safety protocols and plans to help people stay safe from illness as researchers and experts learn more about the newest strain of SARS-CoV-2. This includes plans to expand access to COVID-19 over-the-counter tests for people to use at home in the U.S.
On Monday, December 6, 2021 Mayo Clinic’s leading experts on COVID-19 treatments and therapeutics. Dr. Andrew Badley and Dr. Raymund Razonable discussed the new antiviral pills for the treatment of COVID, as well as existing therapies like monoclonal antibodies and other existing and emerging therapeutics.
Omicron, a new COVID-19 variant of concern, has been detected in all regions of the world, including North America. Researchers are aggressively studying the emergence of the omicron variant. One of the many questions they're hoping to answer is how well current COVID-19 treatments and therapies will work against omicron.
Most people who have COVID-19 recover completely within a few weeks. But some people — even those who had mild versions of the disease — continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery. Sometimes called “long haulers” or “long COVID," these patients can have fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog and other symptoms long after the time of their infection.
On Wednesday, December 8, 2021, Dr. Gregory Poland, Mayo Clinic vaccine and epidemiology expert, fielded questions regarding the delta and omicron variants of COVID-19. Journalists who have already registered on the News Network can log into their accounts to download a recording of the Zoom briefing found at the end of this post.
Vaccine drugmaker Pfizer says its studies show three doses of its COVID-19 vaccine neutralized the omicron variant while two doses reduced severity. "These are studies where they try to look at how much antibody does it take to neutralize the virus in a test tube," says Dr. John O'Horo, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic. "What they found in these studies is that you need a significantly higher titer, or concentration of antibodies, to neutralize omicron compared to delta or the previous variants. However, what they also found is that it will still neutralize at these higher titers."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mayo Clinic recommend delaying travel until you and your family are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If you are traveling, Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious diseases physician with Mayo Clinic Children's Center, says it's important to have strategies to help mitigate your risks.
"People that detect omicron — states, counties, countries — that doesn't necessarily mean that they were the first to have it," says Dr. Bobbi Pritt, director of Mayo Clinic's Division of Clinical Microbiology. "It is just that they were one of the first to detect it. In Minnesota, we were one of the first states to detect the presence of the omicron variant. And that's because we sequence a large number of our COVID-19 positive specimens. We have a very good sequencing system in place."
ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic experts say, regardless of the variant, prevention of infection works. The vaccines reduce and prevent hospitalization and death based on current knowledge. If a person can get vaccinated or is eligible for a booster, do it now.