Get vaccinated now, State Health Officer advises after Omicron found in Louisiana

Photo credit Getty Images

The first probable case of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Louisiana was revealed Friday evening in the greater New Orleans area. The Louisiana Department of Health said the individual recently traveled within the U.S.

State Health Officer Dr. Joe Kanter said the variant is significant because it has some 50 mutations from the original virus.

“Until we get more data and more time to see what happens we won’t have a more definitive answer about how transmissible it is and that’s a crucial, crucial question,” said Dr. Kanter.

Kanter said researchers are still gathering and reviewing data and there are still many unknowns. For example, is the Omicron variant resistant to current therapeutics we are using to treat COVID? Can it evade the immunity provided by the vaccines?

“We do know that the protection one gets from prior infection is incomplete and not as strong as the protection one gets, not as complete or durable as one gets, from being fully vaccinated,” said Dr. Kanter.

Until there’s more data, Dr. Kanter said it is hard to predict what kind of impact the Omicron variant will have in Louisiana. He said currently, there are a lull in cases and hospitalizations in the state. The state has increased lab sequencing to detect the Omicron variant and the public should…

“We need to be using the time now to increase vaccinations across the state as much as possible, and that also goes for people getting their booster shot,” said Kanter.

In Louisiana, just below 50 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. Everyone ages 5 and older are eligible to be vaccinated, and anyone 18 and older is eligible to receive a booster six months after receiving their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.