Omicron variant: What we know so far about this COVID-19 strain
Updated Jan. 14, 2022
UC Davis Health is vaccinating ages 5 and older
UC Davis Health patients and non-patients can schedule appointments at our clinics in Auburn, Carmichael, Davis, Elk Grove, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Rocklin, Roseville, and Sacramento.
The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is spreading more rapidly than other strains of the virus. This is causing an increase in cases and a high demand for testing. If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for a test or your results, stay home and isolate from others. Learn more about when you should get tested
You can also reach out to our experts using UC Davis Health’s convenient Telehealth Express Care for urgent needs or extended-hours video visits. Express care services are open Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
What is the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and how is it different than other strains?
The Omicron variant has more mutations than any other variant that researchers have discovered. Many of the mutations are in the spike protein, which is what attaches to the cells and relates to how the virus is spread. For this reason, all vaccines being used are focused on targeting and developing an immune response to the spike proteins.
Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective in protecting against Omicron?
Since the Omicron variant is so new, health experts do not have a clear idea how effective the vaccines will be. There is a potential that COVID-19 vaccines might not be as effective with new variants. However, the more antibodies a person has, the more protected they will be. That’s why everyone is encouraged to get a COVID-19 booster shot once you're eligible. Preliminary evidence suggests that vaccines are less effective against Omicron compared with Delta. But vaccines still protect well against serious illness such as hospitalization.
Does the Omicron variant cause more severe illness than other strains of COVID-19?
Health experts have very little data about the illness that comes with Omicron. Initial reports suggest that it may cause milder illness compared to previous variants. However, these infections may be mostly in young and healthy people who are less likely to get severely sick. Researchers are hoping to learn more soon about Omicron and whether it can cause severe illness
Is the Omicron variant able to spread more easily than other COVID-19 strains?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Omicron likely spreads more easily than the original COVID-19 virus. It appears to be much more contagious compared to the Delta variant, as it's quickly become the dominant strain in the U.S. The CDC said it expects that people can spread Omicron even if they’re vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.
Should you do anything different for the Omicron variant?
You should continue to practice good health hygiene, get your COVID-19 vaccine, and continue to mask when you're around others outside your household.
What does the Omicron variant tell us about future COVID-19 strains?
The more people who are infected, the more likely we are to see new variants. The message from health experts remains that everyone should be vaccinated against COVID-19. Every time COVID-19 infects someone, there’s a chance for more mutations, which can allow the virus to keep spreading. Stay vigilant and get vaccinated if you haven’t already.