FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 3, 2021
Heather Thomas, 425.339.8688
Top Six Things to Know about Omicron, Vaccines and Booster Doses
Emergence of another variant of concern underscores need for vaccines
SNOHOMISH COUNTY, Wash. – The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the new B.1.1.529 variant as a Variant of Concern and named it Omicron—the Greek letter “O”—in keeping with recent naming conventions for COVID-19 variants. At least two confirmed cases have been identified in the United States. This has drawn a lot of attention and questions in the community. Here are the top things to know:
- Omicron is not cause for panic. The emergence of yet another variant of concern is a somber reminder that elimination of COVID is an unlikely scenario. However, the emergence of Omicron should come as no surprise. This is what viruses do. New mutations arise, with the stronger ones displacing their predecessors. We have already seen this time and again with COVID, and Omicron won’t be the last. Despite the detection of Omicron, Delta remains the predominant strain in the United States.
- Scientists are still studying Omicron. It may spread more easily than other variants, including Delta, but due to the small number of cases, the current severity of illness and death associated with this variant is unclear. Currently there are no signals of increased severity coming from South Africa, where it was first detected and most of the cases are. Also unknown is whether or to what extent the spike protein mutations in omicron reduce protection from vaccination or prior infection. Further investigation is underway in these respects. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been actively monitoring and preparing for this variant and is continuing to work diligently with other U.S. and global public health and industry partners to learn more.
- Keep up the same prevention measures. We know what it takes to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we must continue to keep our guard up with masking, physical distancing, increased ventilation, and other prevention measures. Everyone 5 years and older should protect themselves from COVID-19, and variants like omicron, by getting fully vaccinated. The Health District and CDC also encourage a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose for everyone who is at least 18 years old and six months past their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or two months past their single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
- Get vaccinated if you’re eligible, including a booster. Breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated are expected, but vaccines are effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. All FDA-approved or authorized vaccines are expected to be effective against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. The recent emergence of the Omicron variant further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
- It might take a few days or weeks to get an appointment. Vaccines are available, but people may need to schedule 1-2 weeks out. The issue right now isn’t so much supply of the vaccines, but available slots for appointments. Pharmacies, healthcare providers and community clinics are balancing the demand for pediatric vaccines and booster doses at the same time. It’s the same people administering the vaccines and we are in the midst of a system-wide healthcare worker shortage.
- Plan ahead for holiday travel. People should plan ahead to ensure they are fully vaccinated or get those booster doses in time for travel or celebrations with friends and family. Also monitor for updates on testing or further travel requirements and restrictions. For instance, the CDC announced that all international travelers entering the U.S. must now have proof of a negative test within one day of travel, regardless of vaccination status. Check your destination’s COVID-19 situation before traveling. State, local, and territorial governments may have additional travel restrictions in place.
District Vaccine and Testing Clinic Schedule
In response to growing demand, the Health District has an additional day of vaccination appointments available for those 12+ at the Ash Way Park & Ride site. It is now open Wednesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., though all appointments are booked through Dec. 10. Additional appointments for future weeks will be available soon at www.snohd.org/drivethru.
The full schedule for next week is as follows:
- Testing at Everett site located at 3715 Oakes Avenue – Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- The Ash Way Park & Ride location at 16327 Ash Way in Lynnwood offers vaccines Wednesdays through Fridays. Testing is also available Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Appointments for testing are available at www.snohd.org/testing and vaccine appointments at www.snohd.org/drivethru.
Those without internet access, needing language assistance, or requiring additional support in scheduling can reach the Health District’s call center at 425.339.5278 to schedule a testing or vaccine appointment. Callers after hours or on holidays or weekends can leave a message, which will be returned on the next business day.