JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – As Mississippi cases of COVID-19’s Omicron variant grow, experts said some things won’t immediately change: The Delta variant remains the overwhelmingly predominant strain in the state, and getting vaccinated and boosted is the best way to protect against serious infection.
“There are a lot of questions related to transmission, how effective the current vaccines will be, and whether there will be any different symptoms,” said Dr. Bhagyashri Navalkele, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and medical director of infection prevention at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC).
But for now, Navalkele and other experts say, “all adults 18 years and above who are eligible to receive booster shots should go ahead and receive it without any delay to improve immune response against ongoing Delta variant and emerging Omicron variant.”
Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree what we know so far about Omicron is limited, although some data is emerging about the possible effectiveness against Omicron of the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson. But, the Omicron variant likely will spread more easily than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus, the CDC said this week on its website.
The CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms. There are cases of Omicron variant breakthrough infection reported worldwide, but most experts believe the current vaccines and boosters will offer about the same protection as they do for the Delta variant in preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death, the CDC says.
The best protection for Mississippians at this point? The vaccinations and booster, said Dr. Thomas Dobbs, Mississippi State Department of Health state health officer and UMMC associate professor of population health. All Americans ages 18 and above are eligible for a booster six months after they’re fully vaccinated, and children ages 5 and up can receive the two-dose Pfizer vaccine.
About 47 percent of Mississippi adults are vaccinated, the fourth-worst vaccination rate in the nation behind Idaho, the worst, Wyoming and Alabama.
Vaccinations for Mississippians of all ages are available from health care providers, federally qualified health centers, independent and retail pharmacies, and county health departments. Schedule appointments at county health departments at covidvaccine.umc.edu, or call 866-498-4948 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week.