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Eastern Carolina experts explain dominant COVID variants

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 7:52 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has now been detected in over one-third of the United States.

Yet according to an announcement made by Pfizer, the company’s booster shot can effectively protect against the mutation.

Dr. Rachel Roper, Brody School of Medicine viral pathogens expert, suggests that when thinking about COVID vaccines and mutant variants like Omicron, think explosions.

“If you hit something with a bomb, and if you hit nearby, you’re still going to get a lot of destruction, but it’s not going to be perfect like a perfect hit,” Roper said.

The vaccines in millions of arms across the country were not made to fight Omicron, but the shot’s “explosion” still provides some protection.

Mutations are inevitable, explains Dr. Arin Piramzadian with StarMed Healthcare.

“The part that is really unnatural is that there are so many people that are sick,” Piramzadian said.

Many of those mutations are in areas where we can make neutralized antibodies to fight infection. Mutations have knocked those out, so Roper says we know there will be less protection.

It’s an explanation for why breakthrough cases of Omicron infection in fully vaccinated individuals are popping up.

“Any change in the virus will change how the vaccines and the treatments that were originally for a different string of it will work,” Piramzadian said.

Pfizer’s preliminary findings of booster efficacy against Omicron suggest an increase in antibody protection of over 2,000%.

“But it’s not going to be as good of protection as it was against the Delta variant,” Roper warns.

The vaccine wasn’t made to target the changes that the Omicron variant possesses.

Still, experts said that some protection is better than none.

The reality of severe COVID infection is gruesome and painful.

Roper recalls hearing someone say that if they were infected with COVID-19 and died, they would be okay with it. They thought that when their time is up, their time is up. However, she says, “they may not be thinking about that they could be in the hospital on a ventilator for two months while their family watches them die.”

Because the sample pool of Omicron infection is so small, there is not enough information to make definitive conclusions about its infectious qualities and deadliness.

About two weeks ago, Pfizer/BioNTech began working to create a vaccine specific to Omicron, in case it is needed. The company says the first batch of that variant-specific vaccine could be available within 100 days, pending approval.

Pfizer’s announcement is the first to be released by a vaccine maker to support the urges of health officials across the country about getting vaccinated and getting boosted, if eligible.

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