As the winter months continue, concern over the omicron variant grows as cases continue to rise for COVID-19. In a blog post by Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutions of Health, he states there are still protections against the omicron variant with current vaccines, however, he further explains that “there appears to be a significant decline in neutralizing antibodies against this variant in people who have received two shots of an mRNA vaccine.”

Those who receive the booster shot, or third shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, are more protected and will help prevent those who are fully vaccinated from getting a breakthrough infection, Dr. Collins further explains. 

The omicron variant which was discovered in South Africa in November has spread around the world with 22 states reporting cases of the omicron variant as of Dec. 8, according to the CDC. It is still unknown how more easily the variant will spread compared to the Delta variant and that those who have the omicron variant are able to spread to others regardless of vaccination status and symptoms. The CDC further states that current vaccines will protect people from experiencing severe illness, hospitalization, and death from the omicron variant, but breakthrough cases are still likely for those fully vaccinated.

In a statement released by Pfizer and BioNTech, they suggest that a third dose of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine neutralizes the omicron variant and that only two doses of the vaccine “show significantly reduced neutralization titers.”

“Ensuring as many people as possible are fully vaccinated with the first two-dose series and a booster remains the best course of action to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer.

Earlier this month, DC Health confirmed the first four cases of the omicron variant in DC. All four cases were people who were fully vaccinated, but their booster status is unknown. On Dec. 17, Bowser urged those who aren’t vaccinated to get vaccinated and for those who are feeling sick to “stay home.” Bowser also urged people to wear masks indoors in public areas. 

“If you are going to social events, you might want to think about if you need to go or not. Limit those events. Stay in a closer bubble. Wear a mask indoors, that includes in public spaces [and] that includes in private homes and other settings where you’re not sure,” said Bowser. 

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