AS the Coronavirus pandemic continues to take countless lives, the World Health Association has warned against a new variant that could make its way to the United States.
It is being reported that it has more mutations than the Delta variant and could be deadly.
What is the Omicron variant?
The Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant is the newest Covid-19 variant which has many concerned.
WHO first reported the new strain on November 24, 2021, after a case was reported in South Africa earlier this month, later calling it a "variant of concern," and that early evidence "suggests an increased risk of reinfection."
Experts met to assess the new variant on Friday but it still remains unclear how deadly it actually is.
The new strain reportedly has a high number of mutations in the virus’ spike protein.
At this time, it is believed to be in five countries after Belgium detected its first case on November 26 from an unvaccinated person returning from abroad marking the first case in Europe.
What had Joe Biden said about Omicron?
As a result of the new variant, the United States restricted travel from South Africa, as well as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi, according to a statement released by The White House.
President Joe Biden then released a statement saying: "The policy was implemented out of an abundance of caution in light of a new COVID-19 variant circulating in Southern Africa."
Adding, "…Our scientists and public health officials are working quickly to learn more about this variant."
At this time, the travel restrictions will not affect American citizens or permanent residents.
Do current vaccines protect against Omicron?
As of November 2021, there are three types of Covid-19 vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer.
At this time, it remains unclear if any of these vaccines protect against the new variant, however, it is still being strongly encouraged for those eligible to get the jab and the booster.
Following WHO's announcement, Pfizer revealed that they are testing their vaccine against the strain but could also produce a new one for it in "approximately 100 days," upon government regulatory approval.
Moderna has also been conducting tests to determine how effective their vaccine is against Omicron.
“From the beginning, we have said that as we seek to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative that we are proactive as the virus evolves," Moderna's Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel, said, according to Business Wire.
"The mutations in the Omicron variant are concerning and for several days, we have been moving as fast as possible to execute our strategy to address this variant,” Bancel continued.
“We have three lines of defense that we are advancing in parallel: we have already evaluated a higher dose booster of mRNA-1273 (100 µg), second, we are already studying two multi-valent booster candidates in the clinic that were designed to anticipate mutations such as those that have emerged in the Omicron variant and data is expected in the coming weeks, and third, we are rapidly advancing a Omicron-specific booster candidate (mRNA-1273.529).”
Johnson & Johnson is also conducting testing and monitoring the new vaccine closely.
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