I’ve been doing a lot of media interviews lately and getting numerous questions from readers. One of the things I’ve been asked most frequently about is whether or not people should cancel their holiday travel plans due to the emergence of Omicron. Obviously, I’m not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be one on Twitter, but I do closely follow doctors who have been providing spot-on advice throughout the pandemic.
All the medical experts I follow say it’s going to take a couple of weeks for us to know for sure if this variant is any more dangerous than previous ones (and thus far, there is no sure indication that it is), if those who have had COVID-19 will continue to have immunity and if the current vaccines will work against Omicron. Experts think they will be effective, especially if you’ve received your booster shot. Related Reading: Here’s why we won’t know for weeks how dangerous Omicron is.
Dr. Anthony Fauci just said that he doesn’t think there’s any possibility that Omicron could completely evade any protection from the vaccine, but that it may diminish the level of protection, which is why everyone needs to get vaccinated and boosted.
If for some reason our current vaccine doesn’t provide adequate protection, it’s going to take at least 100 days for drug makers to create a new vaccine.
Dr. Ashish K. Jha tweeted, “Is it possible #OmicronVariant sets us back to square one? No. We have lots of tests that’ll detect Omicron. We have therapies that’ll work. Our vaccines MAY take a hit but will still provide some (may be a lot) protection. We are in a MUCH better place This isn’t March 2020.”
Scott Gottlieb, Former United States Commissioner of Food and Drugs, appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box and said, “The two key questions in my mind is how protective is the vaccine going to be and how protective is prior infection with Delta?” “It looks like the major antigen tests on the market, they will be sensitive at detecting this new variant.” Here’s the video
The Washington Post interviewed two doctors and I think their quotes are worth noting: “Lin Chen, director of the Travel Medicine Center at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts said, “Given the concerns, travel to areas that are known to be affected will involve new rules and inconveniences.” Chen also said travelers “need to decide whether they accept those challenges” or if it’s “better to wait until more is known about Omicron.”
The other doctor interviewed by the Post was David Freedman, president-elect of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, who said that “the science is moving at lightning speed in a way that wouldn’t have been possible five or 10 years ago. We’re getting answers to some pretty complicated questions in a matter of weeks rather than several months.”
He went on to say, “Still, it could be a few weeks before it’s known whether the vaccines work against this strain. In the meantime, he said, he personally would not make any end-of-year holiday travel plans internationally “if I wasn’t willing to take a chance that I was going to get stuck overseas.”
As someone who always errs on the side of caution, I wouldn’t cancel your holiday travel plans just yet. Fortunately, most people won’t be traveling for at least two to three weeks and by then, we should have definitive answers. If Omicron turns out to be the terrible variant many fear, then there will be so many travel restrictions, you won’t even have to make a decision. It will be made for you.
But I hope that the current vaccines will prove effective, however, we need to wait 2-3 weeks to see what happens. Personally, I would travel domestically but I wouldn’t travel internationally because I’m not willing to be stuck anywhere for an extended period of time. However, if you’re fully vaccinated, not tied down to anything or anyone here in the USA, then I know plenty of people who would welcome being stuck outside of the country. Whatever you do, stay safe!
I think President Joe Biden said it best during today’s press conference: “This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”