Texas health officials still urge people to get vaccinated and get booster vaccines, especially as the holiday season approaches 58% of the state’s eligible population – from 5 years – is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Doctors and health officials in Texas say the Omicron variant of COVID-19 could be found in the state within the next few weeks – if it isn’t here already. No cases have been reported in the United States from Monday afternoon.
Officials from the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District are monitoring the situation, saying they “fully anticipate seeing some cases soon”.
“It will take two to four weeks to know how serious the threat is … The new Omicron variant was described as ‘extremely mild’ by the South African doctor who first sounded the alarm about the new variety,” a statement from Metro Health said.
Dr. Peter Hotez of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston said the variant may already be present in Texas and that scientists will soon know if current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against it. He told CNN that it is unlikely to be completely resistant.
“Our scientists at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor are now studying just that – our immune response to our vaccine to see if it cross-neutralizes omicron,” said Dr. Hotez.
He added that the Delta variant is still his biggest concern and he doesn’t fully support it Travel restrictions That went into effect on Monday from President Joe Biden. The US has banned travel to seven countries – Canada not included – that reported their first case of the new variant this weekend.
“I think the bottom line is that we don’t know a lot. To be honest, I’m not panic about this variant at the moment. It has accelerated in a province in South Africa that includes Pretoria and Johannesburg – a highly urbanized “province of South Africa,” Hotez told MSNBC. “That doesn’t mean it will do the same elsewhere.”
The Houston Methodist Hospital did not detect the Omicron variant in any of its sequences. Since the hospital is able to carry out large-scale genome sequencing of pathogens, Houston is often one of the first cities in the country to recognize variants. The health department is working to gather new information about omicron and is sharing it with Mayor Sylvester Turner, according to the mayor.
“Until we get more information, the best way to keep it at bay is to get the vaccine. And if you’ve already got the vaccine, get the booster, ”said Turner.
Matt Harab and Paul Flahive of Houston Public Media contributed to this story.
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