(RxWiki News) The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is tearing across the United States and driving case numbers to record highs. Here's what health officials say will fight this fast-moving variant.
It's a combination of some very familiar COVID pandemic tools. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the best tools to fight Omicron are the ones we already have: vaccinations, boosters, masks and testing.
According to the CDC, vaccines are still the most effective way to reduce the impact of the Omicron variant on the public. However, that doesn't mean they're perfectly effective. In fact, they're far from that.
The CDC noted on its website that breakthrough infections — COVID-19 infections that occur in vaccinated people — are common with the Omicron variant. But infection isn't the only measure of the pandemic's impact. Public health officials are also worried about hospitalizations, severe illness and death — three things the CDC expects the COVID vaccines will protect against as Omicron spreads.
Because the Omicron variant appears to be able to bypass the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC has recommended booster shots to increase the effectiveness of vaccination. Boosters are simply an additional dose of the vaccine.
Those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get their booster at least two months after the dose, and those who received the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccines should get a booster at least six months after the second dose, according to the CDC. Boosters are expected to expand the vaccines' protection against severe illness and death as Omicron spreads.
Masks that cover the nose and mouth slow the spread of all variants of COVID-19, according to the CDC. That includes Omicron.
That's why the agency is recommending masks in public indoor places and areas where COVID-19 transmission is high for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Because health officials are still learning more about Omicron and the variant appears to be spreading like wildfire, the CDC is doubling down on its testing recommendations. The agency said nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) and antigen tests can tell you whether you have a current infection, but additional testing would be necessary to tell you whether you are infected with the Omicron variant specifically.
Meanwhile, at-home self-tests are sometimes difficult to find, but they can be an effective tool to prevent the spread of any COVID-19 variant. According to the CDC, if you test positive for COVID-19 with an at-home test, you should call your health care provider, stay home and isolate for 10 days and wear a face mask if you have any contact with other people.
If you have concerns about COVID-19, the Omicron variant, testing or vaccination, reach out to your health care provider.