The Omicron Variant
November 29, 2021
The WHO announced a new variant of concern last Friday. The Omicron variant has around 50 mutations from previous strains of the coronavirus, including over 30 mutations on the spike protein. Spike proteins are responsible for invading cells, but it is still unclear whether mutations in the spike protein allow variants to evade antibodies produced by infection or vaccination. The New York Times displays the visual differences between coronavirus strains here, including differences in the spike protein between variants.
In comparison to other variants of concern (VOCs), “preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant.” Even if the efficacy is reduced, vaccination is expected to provide some level of protection against the Omicron variant as it triggers immune cells to attack infected cells, along with the production of antibodies. In an official statement from the White House, Dr. Fauci stated it will take approximately two weeks to learn more about the transmissibility and severity of the Omicron variant. You can read why variants are more infectious here.