When looking back over the past 2 years, many think about the need for and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines, but regardless of what many may think it has been proven that the COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the original variant of COVID-19 that was most prominent during the production of vaccines. However, what many people are wondering is if these vaccines & boosters are still effective against the Omicron variant?
Before going over the effectiveness of the current vaccines and booster shots on the Omicron variant, we first have to look at the Omicron variant itself. First off, we know that Omicron was “first identified [in] South Africa,” which is a place where full vaccination rates are at 25%: a low percent that is not high enough for herd immunity. Despite this, the Omicron is still viewed as a threat to more vaccinated communities. This is because in order for variants of COVID-19 to be labeled a variant, it needs at least one mutation to its spike protein, and Omicron has dozens of mutations to its spike protein, and the more mutations it has, the more potential it has to infect the vaccinated.
It is important to note that the COVID-19 vaccines help to produce antibodies that latch onto and render spike proteins inactive. Since this Omicron variant has dozens of mutations to its spike protein. As seen through activities and lessons learned in our Bio class, different variants of COVID-19 just have pieces of the protein structure changed, which leads to a changed shape of their spike proteins. This leads to existing vaccines being less effective as the original vaccine was meant for a specific spike protein shape, not the shapes of the new variants. The changes to the Omicron spike protein makes it very different to the original COVID-19 spike protein, so the vaccine will be less effective.
Even if a break through the vaccinations defenses doesn’t happen with the Omicron variant, “some version of this coronavirus is bound to flummox our vaccines.” Despite all of this information, we still know very little about the Omicron variant and its effects. It’s just too early to know what will happen. Because of this lack of information, it is important for people to make sure they are vaccinated and get their boosters as it does still make a difference. Overall, people, vaccinated or not, should err on the side of caution with this new potential threat of Omicron out there and should try to stay safe.