Omicron Update: In 11 States, Appears to Escape Immunity From Prior Infection, At-Home Tests Covered and No Change in Definition of Fully Vaccinated Yet

In 11 states so far

The variant has been detected in 20 people in 11 states so far, CNBC is reporting this morning. Caess have been detected inCalifornia, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Appears to evade immunity from prior infection

In pre-print published Thursday (Dec. 2) on medRxiv, a team of South African researchers led Juliet R.C. Pulliam reported that omicron variant can evade immunity from prior infection. They identified 35,670 suspected reinfections among 2,796,982 individuals with laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 who had a positive test result at least 90 days prior to Nov. 27,2021.

The researchers said it is still an open question whether the variant can get by immunological defenses primed by vaccination.

Here are the exact words in the conclusion of their abstract: “Population-level evidence suggests that the Omicron variant is associated with substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection. In contrast, there is no population-wide epidemiological evidence of immune escape associated with the Beta or Delta variants. This finding has important implications for public health planning, particularly in countries like South Africa with high rates of immunity from prior infection. Urgent questions remain regarding whether Omicron is also able to evade vaccine-induced immunity and the potential implications of reduced immunity to infection on protection against severe disease and death.”

Research published on medRxiv has not been peer reviewed, so it comes with a blanket proviso that it is preliminary and subject to change.

At-home tests covered

President Biden announced in his press briefing at the National Institutes of Health on Thursday (Dec.2) that private health insurers will have to cover at-home COVID-19 states. The at-home tests include Abbott’s BinaxNOW, Ellume’s Covid-19 Home Test, and Quidel’s QuickVue. The administration is also gearing up to make the tests available at community health centers and rural health clinics. But one of the biggest problems is that the demand for the tests is overwhelming the limited supply.

Definition of fully vaccinated hasn’t changed yet

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday (Nov. 30) that federal health authorities are not changing the definition of “fully vaccinated” to include a booster shot yet. The current definition is vaccination with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

But Walensky left the door ajar for revising the definition: “As that science evolves, we will look at whether we need to update our definition of ‘fully vaccinated,’” she said, according to Kaiser Health News.

Not a game changer; hybrid immunity the best of all

Ashish Jha, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, has become a leading voice on the pandemic. In an interview with Newsmax, the conservative media outlet yesterday (Dec. 3) morning, Jha said omicron variant had not changed the public health advice: “People should get vaccinated,” he said during a morning show interviews. “If you have been previously infected and recovered you should still get vaccinated because the evidence suggests that hybrid immunity of someone who has been previously infected and gets vaccinated is really the best of all. I think people six months out should get a booster. That to me is the evidence of what it is going to take as the primary way we are going to get out of this pandemic. We’ll see what omicron throws at us. But I don’t think it is going to change the game.”