MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – The Marquette County Health Department published a press release on December 20 urging people to be concerned about the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

MCHD says health experts are warning that the COVID-19 variant Omicron is expected to cause the greatest surge in COVID-19 infections in upcoming months. They say the local rate of severe infections, hospitalizations and death will depend on previous vaccination coverage, prior natural immunity and risk factors including age and obesity. The CDC and MCHD recommend people be vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine as soon as possible and to get a booster as soon as they are eligible to help prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. MCHD says once Omicron is in a community it will be nearly impossible to contain.

The following is what MCHD says is currently known about Omicron, but that data can change:

  • Two-dose vaccines offer little to no protection against Omicron People with two doses are just as vulnerable to Omicron infection as the unvaccinated.
  • Those who’ve received boosters have better protection 75% (vs. 90% with the Delta variant) and early data shows boosters offer substantial protection from severe illness from Omicron. Data collected so far shows more rapid waning of protection after the primary series than was seen with Delta or variants (the UK recommends boosters three months after the primary series, but so far, the CDC recommends six months) Currently in Marquette County only 39% of the population over age 40 is fully vaccinated (primary and booster) and 28% for all ages eligible for a booster dose.
  • Early evidence suggests that Omicron is two to three times as contagious as the Delta variant, making it four to six times as contagious as the original COVID-19 virus. Once omicron is in a community, it will be nearly impossible to contain, making vaccines and boosters essential in protecting people from severe illness.
  • The risk of reinfection with Omicron is fivefold greater than with Delta, protecting from earlier infection as low as 19%.
  • There is no evidence that Omicron infections are less severe than Delta in hospitalization and death rates.

The MCHD says the best way to protect yourself and others is to get vaccinated with three doses of either Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. If you received the initial Johnson & Johnson vaccine, get boosted with Moderna or Pfizer two months after. The booster starts working within seven days. People who prefer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or those who cannot receive an mRNA vaccine can still access it. Those with a history of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, blood clotting with low platelets, should not receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In consideration of the upcoming holidays, the MCHD recommends

  • Vaccinate: COVID and influenza
  • Test: before joining gatherings with others who are not in your household and before and after traveling, regardless of your vaccine status; when exposed; or ill.
  • Mask: wear a mask indoors in public, even if you’re vaccinated.