Omicron Variant poses new threat, CDC calls for a “boost” in COVID protection


Lisa Ferdinando/Wikimedia

A third dose of the COVID vaccine highly encouraged for the Saint A’s community.

Thomas DeRoche, Medical Correspondent

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Monday that all adults “should” get a booster shot six months after receiving the second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or two months after receiving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This was three days after the World Health Organization designated the Omicron variant as “a variant of concern.”

The CDC strengthened its recommendations of the booster shots to say all adults “should” receive the booster shot whereas before the CDC said all adults “may” receive the booster shot. These stronger recommendations are the result of the emergence of the new Omicron variant and decreasing effectiveness of the vaccines over time. Because of its novelty, not much is known about the Omicron variant. However, it has over 30 mutations on its spike proteins, which are what the virus uses to enter the host cells and cause infection. It is not yet known if these mutations will make it more transmittable or cause more severe disease. 

Maura Marshall, Director of Health Services, said in her weekly Covid update, “If you received your COVID vaccine more than 6 months ago, we are highly encouraging that you receive a COVID Booster Vaccine over break.” No decision has been made to date whether or not the college will be requiring the booster vaccine in the spring or for next school year. The decrease in transmission this year compared to last shows the effectiveness of the vaccine. However, the increasing number of cases on campus reveals the declining effectiveness of the vaccine and highlights the need for the booster. 

Why should I get the booster vaccine? According to the CDC, “emerging evidence also shows that among healthcare and other frontline workers, vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infections is also decreasing over time.” Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines’ effectiveness dropped to about half of their original effectiveness over a period of nine to eleven months. Pfizer found that its booster vaccine “restored vaccine protection against COVID-19 to the high levels achieved after the second dose, showing a relative vaccine efficacy of 95.6% when compared to those who did not receive a booster.”

Which booster vaccine should I get? According to the CDC, any of the booster shots are safe to mix and match. Meaning, a person who received the primary Pfizer series would be able to get the Moderna booster vaccine. Getting the booster vaccine will help keep Saint As safe and allow for a “normal” finish of the year.