Omnicron Virus: what do we know (and what rumor mills say)

South Africa has become a hot spot but cases are popping up now in Belgium, the UK, and Hong Kong. It’s a safe bet that there are cases now throughout the world. – Andy Slavitt

COVID UPDATE: The latest on Omicron from a few brief conversations with scientists plus 24 hours of development. A little of what’s known & what’s speculated. 1/
South Africa has become a hot spot but cases are popping up now in Belgium, the UK, and Hong Kong. It’s a safe bet that there are cases now throughout the world. 3/
Scientists are indeed quite focused and concerned about Omicron. It appears to have the properties that would both evade an immune response (at least to some degree) and spread faster than Delta. 5/
What is interesting is that unlike the Alpha and Delta discoveries, this has been discovered with a very small number of cases due in large part to excellent work by S African scientists. 6/
What it also means is that much of the analysis we are reading about is based on sophisticated modeling. Some of the mutations we’ve seen before & know how they create problems. Many we haven’t seen before. 7/
There are questions about the rate of spread with some modeling showing the virus could spread at 5x the rate of the 2020 version of COVID. That is being studied and will be borne out more clearly in the next few weeks & as Omicron is exposed to areas where Delta is stronger.8/
It appears that PCR tests are able to detect Omicron directly. If this holds it creates a powerful tracking & surveillance tool. As data emerges, this is something to be mindful of. 9/
What about our tools? -Vaccines -Monoclonals -Rapid tests -Masks, ventilation 10/
We don’t yet know how well our current vaccines perform against Omicron. We should have analysis within 2 weeks. 11/
Scientists from Moderna and Pfizer have begun to work to test the Omicron virus against the vaccine in a lab. Moderna has indicated they are also testing a larger boost, an Omicron specific boost, and a boost that would work against multiple-variants. 11/
Ideally, the next boost we have to combat Omicron should combine a vaccine that works against multiple variants/known mutations and the flu presuming it can be safely administered— something they express confidence in. 12/
The mRNA platform allows for rapid development. Unless there are surprises, this means weeks to create, months to produce. 13/
Studies on monoclonal antibodies also suggest that Omicron will cause challenges for the existing monoclonals. I’m uncertain how long it would take to adjust to new strains. I have been told it is a rapid process but don’t have that confirmed so can’t throw out a date.14/
Omicron is airborne. Well fitting masks, ventilation, avoiding crowds— particularly large, unmasked crowds— is a fail safe— in the event of rapid spread. Testing people on arrival (at home tests appear to still work— to be confirmed over time) & quarantining is sensible. 15/
Assume that no one thing does the trick to protect you but the magic is in the combination. There is no answer yet for people worrying & wondering about holiday plans other than to use precautions, particularly among & around older & immunocompromised people. 16/
When we worry almost entirely about how this will effect us if it gets here, we make the same mistake that got us here. Over and over. If we don’t worry about everyone, all over the world, we are more likely to live in this cycle. 17/
Even as we learn more, know that we have tools & will have better ones to combat Omicron. We need to not only use them but make sure they are able to be used by people everywhere. /end

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