PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As the new omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads, government and health officials are stressing vaccination as a key to fighting this new threat.
“It’s really, really important that we continue to keep up all of the prevention measures that we’ve known and trusted,” said Dr. Brandy Darby, veterinary epidemiologist with the Office of Epidemiology and a member of the COVID-19 Response and Health Information teams with the Virginia Department of Health.
Darby says doctors still have a lot to learn about the omicron variant, especially when it comes to whether or not the vaccines protect against it. However, they do believe vaccines offer protection, which is why they’re once again encouraging people to get a shot or a booster.
According to Darby, a COVID-19 infection will give you some protection against re-infection, but they aren’t sure how much.
“The tricky part is that we really don’t know how long that lasts for or how robust the individual person’s immune response has been,” said Darby. “There’s a lot of variability from person to person after infection.”
That uncertainty is why doctors suggest getting vaccinated, even if you’ve had COVID-19. Plus, omicron is different.
“Omicron has enough mutations that it’s actually quite different from previous variants that we’ve seen, so we think that from a person’s natural immunity is probably going to be reduced when it comes to omicron,” Darby added.
If you had COVID-19 and are eligible for a booster, Darby says you can get one, as long as your symptoms have cleared and you finished your isolation period.
“We are expecting that even if there’s some reduced efficacy of the vaccine in the face of omicron, that the vaccines are going to continue to provide really good protection against severe outcomes like hospitalization and death,” Darby said.
If you had monoclonal antibodies as a COVID-19 treatment, the Centers for Disease Control says you need to wait some time and talk to your doctor before getting a booster.
Darby encourages people to wear a mask, get vaccinated and wash their hands as the holiday season continues.
Virginians who have not been fully vaccinated, or are eligible for booster doses, can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call 1-877-VAX-IN-VA (877) 829-4682 to find nearby vaccination clinics.
Those seeking to find or schedule a testing appointment can visit vase.vdh.virginia.gov/testingappointment.