DENVER, Colorado — Doctors say it wasn't a question of if another variant would occur, but when it would happen.
Scientists are still working to determine how the the latest variant, known as omicron, spreads throughout the environment, how severe the symptoms may be and what kind of larger impact in may have in the community.
Doctors worry omicron could potentially outsmart the immune system.
"I like to say it’s a sheep dressed up in wolves clothing. So you’ve just put a much better disguise on to this wolf, doesn’t realize it’s a wolf, thinks it’s a sheep and lets it in," said Dr. Payal Kohli, 9Health expert. "Those are the mutations that we worry are occurring in the omicron variant."
Omicron has 50 mutations altogether from the original COVID-19 variant – 32 are on the spike protein, which is the main protein targeted by the vaccines.
"It may be a little bit too many mutations, and it may lose substantial efficacy but we do still think there will still be some efficacy of the vaccine," said Kohli.
There are reports emerging that the symptoms may be milder and could cause less severe infection. During a press conference Thursday, state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy said those reports are coming from young people and said scientists are still working to learn the severity of infection it may cause.
"There could be increased transmissibility associated with this variant, also potentially immune system evasion. We are at this point trying to understand more about those mutations and trying to have on the ground observations about immunity and transmissibility in South Africa," said Herlihy.
If the variant is indeed milder than the widespread delta variant, it could have a more positive impact on the community than delta and its devastating effects, particularly to those who are unvaccinated.
"If it does end up being less virulent, as in a milder virus even if it’s more contagious, that may actually be a better scenario than delta," said Kohli.
Doctors said the new variant is a reminder that we have to continue the preventative health measures such as vaccines, booster and mask-wearing.
"We need to be dynamic in our response so when the virus moves, we move. We’re playing chess here with the virus, and we cannot become complacent," said Kohli.
While there are questions over the effectiveness of the vaccine with omicron, doctors still recommend getting the vaccine and said they do believe it will offer some type of protection against this variant and others that may come during the future.
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