Omicron Variant: What You Need to Know
Viruses constantly change through mutation and sometimes these mutations result in a new variant of the virus. Some variants emerge and disappear while others persist. New variants will continue to emerge. CDC and other public health organizations monitor all variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the United States and globally.
Top Things You Need to Know
- New variants of the virus are expected to occur. Taking steps to reduce the spread of infection, including getting a COVID-19 vaccine, are the best way to slow the emergence of new variants.
- Vaccines reduce your risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19.
- COVID-19 booster doses are recommended for adults ages 18 and older. Teens 16–17 years old who received Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines can get a booster dose if they are at least 6 months post their initial Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination series.
The Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus and how easily Omicron spreads compared to Delta remains unknown. CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
Omicron – B.1.1.529
First identified: South Africa
Spread: May spread more easily than other variants, including Delta.
Severe illness and death: Due to the small number of cases, the current severity of illness and death associated with this variant is unclear.
Treatments: Some monoclonal antibody treatments may not be as effective against infection with Omicron.
More data are needed to know if Omicron infections, and especially reinfections and breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated, cause more severe illness or death than infection with other variants.
Current vaccines are expected to protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are likely to occur. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have remained effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
Scientists are working to determine how well existing treatments for COVID-19 work. Based on the changed genetic make-up of Omicron, some treatments are likely to remain effective while others may be less effective.