Local experts give advice on omicron variant

[anvplayer video=”5074885″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Local health leaders say the new omicron variant of COVID-19 should be a wake-up call for people to get vaccinated, or get boosters.

The highly contagious variant is now in America.

"Well, it’s definitely scary,” acknowledged Nazareth Student Zebe Ellikka.

For her family, the threat of omicron was so disturbing, her mother back in India has been worried about her and she’s decided to waste no time getting her vaccine booster.

"A lot of people talk about how they got really sick after the booster shot,” she explained. “So I wanted to wait. But now I feel like I want to get it sooner, at least before Christmas."

Now that a case of the omicron variant of coronavirus has been discovered in the U.S., in California, Rochester area doctors are hopeful it’ll get the attention of the vaccine-hesitant.

"I hope this would be kind of an alert that we have a new virus coming,” said URMC infectious disease physician Dr. Ghinwa Dumyati. "If you are a person that’s reluctant to get vaccinated, this is probably the best time to rethink it.”

"Of course, it makes me want to get it more,” exclaimed Jordan Metelski of Rochester. “It encourages me to get the booster because, you know, as we’ve seen, the vaccine has been proven to be at least somewhat successful against the variants.”

Health officials admit they’re still not sure how well today’s vaccines and boosters will work against this latest variant, but based on their experience with previous variants like delta, it should help at least to prevent severe illness.

And if the current vaccines do seem effective, they say it’s unlikely vaccine makers will develop new ones for omicron

"’Should I wait or should I get the booster?’” asked Emil Lesho at Rochester Regional Health. “I would say get the booster. You don’t know how long you’re going to wait, and we are in a high-risk season.”

Doctors estimate it could be three weeks to a month before the picture becomes clearer as to how severe the effects of omicron are, and how effective current vaccines and boosters are against it but they say getting more of us vaccinated is more important than ever.

"There is no way out of this virus, this pandemic unless we get more people vaccinated,” Dumyati said. “Until we have a very high rate of vaccination, we are never going to get rid of this."

Doctors say the research into omicron and how well vaccines work on it is already underway, although some of it is still catching up from a crunch a few weeks ago, caused by, the supply chain crisis.