"There are not a lot of answers" on omicron

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) – While the newest coronavirus variant, Omicron, is the quickest to be categorized a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, there are still a lot of unknowns as to how it transmits, who is most at risk and whether it’s more severe than previous variants.

A team of clinical researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center that has been studying COVID19 and leading national and international vaccine studies since the start of the pandemic.

“There are not a lot of answers… I think the main concerns are, is it more severe, is it more transmissible and most importantly will the current vaccines still offer protection,” says Dr. Ann Falsey.

Dr. Angela Branche says research teams around the world are currently investigating, “the data coming out of southern Africa so far suggests that it’s sort of a mix… it’s vaccinated individuals, it’s unvaccinated individuals and it’s people who have recovered from COVID but the numbers are small so we don’t really have a good sense yet.

The concern is, “this one has more than the usual number of mutations which raises people’s concern that it’s going to escape vaccine antibodies,” explains Dr. Falsey but she cautions it’s still too early to tell, “there’s a lot of things we do not know yet, we are hopeful that the current vaccines will certainly offer partial protection hopefully against severe disease.”

While the research continues, the bigger issue at the moment is the COVID surge the Finger Lakes region is facing right now. On Friday, the region saw 117 new hospital COVID admissions, the highest number in months. “You may worry about Omicron but there’s a lot of Delta around right now and you can get sick right now from the viruses that are circulating,” Dr. Falsey explains.