More research needed on omicron and how it affects Americans, experts say

Virus Outbreak Variant
Posted at 1:30 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 13:30:17-05

(WXYZ) — The interest in keeping up with COVID and its variants varies from person to person. Some opt to just follow the protocols, others want to know the science behind the severity and transmissibility.

"All I’m doing is just making sure to keep the necessary precautions in order to keep myself and other people safe. So I’m getting my booster shot soon," said a local resident.

The omicron is the newest strain. And so far, scientists say while it spreads quicker than delta, it’s less severe. So is that a good combination? Or can it mutate into something more severe?

Dr. Payal Patel, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Michigan Health System, and Dr. Phillip Levy, a professor of emergency medicine and researcher at Wayne State University, say it’s important to keep in mind most of the studies on omicron so far have been conducted in South Africa, a different population with younger people being infected.

"There’s far fewer people, unfortunately, that have been vaccinated there. But a lot more people have been exposed to the virus there," said Dr. Patel.

Related: Omicron variant now confirmed in Macomb County; 8 total cases in Michigan

Dr. Levy says, "so when you say, ‘could it be more severe?’ It wouldn’t be more severe because omicron itself becomes something different. I mean that could happen and it may create a new severe variant which would have a new Greek alphabet naming structure for it. But omicron itself, we still just don’t know what it’s gonna do when it hits our population.”

Dr. Levy is referring nursing homes, older populations, and people with pre-existing conditions.

Dr. Patel says any new complication on top of the delta variant is concerning. But as a defense, she advises getting vaccinated and getting the booster shot.

"Because I’ll say, reporting here from the hospital, unfortunately, we’re seeing people that have been here for weeks or months since before Thanksgiving. And that’s what you want to try to avoid," she said.

So what about getting the Pfizer or Moderna booster if you originally got the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, or some other combination?

"The ability to cross over is something that the CDC and FDA are in favor of and the idea is that if you do crossover, you may get a little bit of a stronger immune response because you’re adding a different type of boost, if you will, to your immune system," said Dr. Levy.