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Omicron: What you Need to Know

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From the Delta variant, corona virus has mutated to the Omicron (pronounced OH-mi-cron) variant. The World Health Organization (WHO) last Friday designated Omicron a “variant of concern” triggering a new round of international travel bans.

So far, little is known about Omicron, however, according to experts its genetic sequence is known and there are more than 30 mutations in the gene that codes for the spike protein. Whether these mutations are significant is still unknown, though.

What scientists are now looking at are three things: whether this variant actually spreads faster than others, whether it is evading immune responses, and whether it causes more serious disease than other variants.

It is not yet confirmed whether the current vaccines work against Omicron, but even if this variant can evade some of the antibodies that vaccinated people produce, scientists believe that it is extraordinarily unlikely for this variant—or any other variant—to completely escape the vaccinated immune response.

Scientists also believe that getting vaccinated is a way of starving the virus of opportunities to transform into something that could pose more harm to people. What this means for the global fight against the virus is that vaccine equity is important in curbing the spread of the emerging variants. Something that affects one person in a global, interconnected community is ultimately going to affect everyone when the threat is infectious.

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