Omicron COVID-19 variant & vaccines: What you need to know

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — With a new coronavirus variant dominating headlines, the focus shifts to how effective the vaccines will be against omicron.

Since it was first identified in South Africa, then labeled a variant of concern, there’s been an overload of information.

>>> STREAM CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS LIVE <<<

We’re taking the questions and claims to Dr. Bruce Rankin, who’s run all the COVID-19 vaccine trials at Accel’s clinical research in DeLand.

He said he understands there’s a heightened interest and impulse regarding the latest variant, but we need to wait for more information.

READ: Coronavirus: Japan bars new foreign visitors amid omicron variant concerns

“It’s going to be looked at a lot over the next couple of weeks to see exactly what its characteristics are,” Rankin said.

Some people online are already saying it’s completely vaccine-resistant, and the current vaccines won’t work, but Rankin said, “That hasn’t been shown yet.”

READ: Moderna CEO says vaccines likely less effective against omicron

It’s believed the current vaccines will still work to some degree against this strain, but they likely won’t be as effective.

“There would be some protection. I mean, some of the percentages may drop, (but) we still hope that it will help prevent that severe illness and hospitalization,” Rankin said.

So it’s not all or nothing.

Coronavirus: Should you wait to get a booster until there’s an omicron-specific shot?

“So the blatant ‘This will not work’ is not true,” Rankin said. “No, you cannot say that at all. Now, in fact, we do expect the vaccines to be helpful.”

Moderna and Pfizer have said they will start developing a vaccine to target omicron. Some people have said they will just wait to get that vaccine, but Rankin said it’s “way too premature right now to be talking like that.”

“Let’s go ahead and let science have a little bit of time to work for a couple of weeks,” Rankin said.

READ: 9 things to know about the new COVID-19 omicron variant

It’s still not clear if we need a targeted omicron COVID-19 vaccine. Researchers had looked at the need for that for the beta and delta variants.

“There was some reformulation look to see if they could produce that,” Rankin said. “And they found with the studies that are done that doing the booster would cover the variant.”

A booster of the same shot was the solution, not a new strain-specific vaccine.

READ: Coronavirus: Fauci says he ‘would not be surprised’ to find omicron variant in US

Rankin is urging people to get the boosters.

If it’s determined a targeted omicron vaccine is needed, Rankin said it’s very likely Accel’s clinical research will be involved in those trials.

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.