As Conn. labs test for omicron variant, more COVID vaccinations, boosters encouraged

Coronavirus

(WTNH) – NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The first U.S. case of the COVID-19 omicron variant was detected in California on Wednesday. No cases have been detected in Connecticut as of yet, but labs are on alert, ready to detect the virus in samples.

“There is a lot that we don’t know about omicron right now,” says Yale Medicine Infectious Diseases Physician Albert Shaw. “We don’t know how well it will compete with the delta variant. We don’t know what kind of severity of disease it causes. We also don’t know how well our vaccines will protect against it.”

He says that the best evidence shows that current COVID vaccines will provide some protection, particularly against the most serious cases where COVID would cause hospitalization or death.

WEB EXTRA: Full interview with Dr. Albert Shaw addressing COVID cases rising in CT although vaccination rates are high, concerns about omicron

As for Connecticut seeing COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rising even with the state being highly vaccinated, Dr. Shaw believes it is about the timing.

“I suspect that what we might be seeing is the effects of people starting to gather more indoors, fewer outdoor activities with the onset of the cold weather. And I also expect that we may be starting to see the effects of the Thanksgiving holiday.”

That meant more gatherings indoors. And while Connecticut is fully vaccinated at 72%, Dr. Shaw says that more work needs to be done for the delta variant and for the omicron variant, if and when it is detected here.

While virus variant sequencing is being done in labs across Connecticut, Dr. Shaw urges everyone eligible to get vaccinated and boosted.

“I think we’ll need to do better for the delta variant and certainly for the unknown effects of the omicron variant and in this context the eligibility for boosters has been expanded to everyone aged 18 and over.”

And Dr. Shaw weighed in on the rollout of Merck COVID pill in Connecticut. The pill, which is not a replacement for a vaccine, could receive FDA approval soon. He thinks the at-home pill will only be for those at high risk of COVID complications at first.

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