I have tempted to give up on commenting on COVID because the flood of misinformation is overwhelming and the practitioners of that misinformation are deeply invested into those false narratives for political or religious reasons. It is almost impossible to reason with someone who holds opinions with political or religious fervor. However, when I see people get sick, some die, it motivates me to keep up the good fight for truth.
On November 9th a new variant (mutation) of the COVID virus was identified in South Africa that has been named “Omicron.” Since then Omicron has been found in about six other countries (and that number is rapidly growing). The concern about this mutation is that it has more than 30 mutations are in the part that causes the problems of spread and disease (spike protein). Now, we don’t know if those mutations have made it more dangerous, more resistant to the vaccines, and easier to spread, but it could. It could even make it less dangerous than other forms, but the early indications are that it spreads easier than even the delta variant. It will take about two weeks before the scientists know more.
It is a long standing principle of virology that the more viruses that you have in the community, the higher the chances the virus will grow more deadly. The mantra is that viruses can’t mutate if they can’t replicate. There is no question, no debate, that the vaccines are the best way to reduce the amount of active virus in the community. The studies are clear that the vaccines are more than 90% effective in preventing COVID and are the safest medications or vaccines that have ever been produced. There is unanimous support for this among the brightest virology scientists, good people who know this stuff better than anyone else. It is only those who have some political or religious agenda (and it behooves me as to why) that promote the false information that the vaccine is not effective or dangerous. Unvaccinated people are being admitted to hospitals in American at five times the rate as vaccinated, and they die at seven times the rate of the vaccinated. It is part of the misinformation campaign that as many vaccinate people are getting COVID as the unvaccinated. That is a lie. There is no secrete conspiracy or agenda for someone to hide side effects or bad outcomes in order to hurt you. But I digress. The best way to fight COVID by far is getting vaccinated and getting a booster if you qualify.
What happens if the Vaccines are not effective against the Omicron variant?
For a long time the major virus will continue to be the standard and delta versions of the COVID virus, of which the vaccines are very effective. But if the vaccine is not effective against the Omicron, the companies that make the vaccines will immediately work to reprogram the vaccines to block this new variant. That will take months to create and do the testing to make sure they are effective and safe (which the conspiracy theorist won’t believe anyway). But you must understand, like influenza, COVID will be here to stay with new variants each year. Like with the Flu vaccine, everyone will likely need to get a new COVID vaccine yearly. It will probably come as a FLU+COVID combination vaccine. People must be aware that if they had COVID, it will be likely that they can still get the Omicron variant.
The reason the virus is mutating so fast is the lack of vaccinations. No one guessed that nearly 50% of Americans would remain unvaccinated due to an well-orchestrated misinformation campaign. In other parts of the world it is the lack of access, not conspiracy theories that are preventing vaccinations.
There is promising work on anti-viral treatments, but nothing is here now. The drug dexamethasone has reduced some of the mortality of COVID and there is some marginal benefit from monoclonal antibodies. There is no benefit from hydroxychloroquine (the same political and religious sources have created the false notion that this is a cure). There has been several studies with ivermectin in the prevention or treatment of COVID. These studies have not show consistent benefit for COVID patients and more studies are underway. It is misinformation that this is an effective treatment and that some boogie man is attempting to cover up that information. It is the same with vitamins and other treatments. For example, it was observed in Asia at the very start of the pandemic that those with low Vitamin D did worse. So, there have been several studies that looked at vitamin D as a preventative or treatment. There is some evidence that high levels of Vitamin D has some modest protection for black individuals but none for white or other races. Regarding masks, there is no question that masks reduce the transmission of COVID and are safe to wear. Sadly, there has been a huge amount of misinformation about masks.
In summary, keep wearing your masks and get vaccinated and boosters if you don’t want to get COVID. In a normal world it would only make sense to listen to the experts who know what the hell they are talking about than to people with political or religious agendas and are ignorant on this topic. Please stay safe. Mike