The therapeutic treatments available for the Omicron variant are extremely limited right now and will remain that way for upcoming months. If you are unvaccinated or immunocompromised or high risk for any reason, be vigilant with protecting yourself from infection. Other than vaccination, the treatments that reduce risk of serious illness or death are currently in scarce supply. Under governmental direction, treatments, due to shortages, are only available to a very small, high risk, population until quantities increase. If ill, see a health care provider.
- Designated a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26, with a “very high” global risk. It now accounts for more than 95% of COVID cases nationally, in Alaska and in the Interior.
- Highly contagious. Approximately twice as transmissible as Delta.
- Symptoms include scratchy throat, nasal congestion, dry cough, and muscle pain. Doesn’t typically cause loss of taste or smell.
- Reinfection rates are high. Previous COVID infection doesn’t appear to provide adequate protection.
- Omicron is appearing to have more post-vaccine infections than previous variants, however vaccination is still highly effective against severe illness and death.
- Studies indicate that full vaccination plus a booster provides strong protection against omicron.
- Appears to be less severe than Delta but still leads to hospitalizations or death for some people.
- Omicron may be less risk to an individual than Delta but has the same capacity to overwhelm a health care system because of the significant transmissibility.
- There are challenges to treating COVID caused by Omicron.
- The previously widely used monoclonal antibodies (MAB) used to treat the Delta variant are ineffective against Omicron.
- A newer MAB has been identified to have more efficacy, but supply is scarce due to demand and production challenges.
- The two antiviral pills approved by the FDA weeks ago look to be effective against omicron. These health-provider-prescribed treatments are currently in short supply but should increase in the coming weeks.
WHAT FHP CAN EXPECT:
- Increased staffing shortages. We are already seeing an increase in the number of employees unable to work due to COVID.
- Surgery and procedures cancellations due to COVID-related staffing challenges and/or patients testing positive for COVID.
- Increased hospital admissions due to higher case counts. (There are more cases of Omicron than there were Delta.)
- Frustrated and frightened patients and family members. The scarcity of outpatient therapeutic treatment options for COVID for next couple months means that we may not have enough treatments for the number of people who would benefit from them.
- COVID EXPOSURE TRACKING TOOL: Alaska COVID Exposure Notification Express (ENX) is a newly launched tool that allows your mobile phone to inform you of COVID exposures. It’s free, anonymous and easy to use. Quicker notification of close contacts will allow people to take immediate steps to protect themselves and their communities. Learn more here.
- AT-HOME-OVER-THE-COUNTER TESTS: Beginning Jan.15, 2022, most people with a health plan can purchase an at-home over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at no cost, either through reimbursement or free of charge through their insurance. This applies whether you purchased your health plan on your own or whether you get health insurance through your job. Learn more here.
- MASK UP! Please mask up indoors to prevent spread.
UPCOMING COVID VACCINE CLINICS: For additional information, Public Health 907-452-1776, www.covidvax.alaska.gov
- Thursday, Jan. 13: Joy Elementary, 24 Margaret Ave., 3pm-6pm
- Thursday, Jan. 20: North Pole Fire Department, 110 Lewis Street, 3pm-6pm.
- Thursday, Jan. 27: Hunter Elementary, 1630 Gilliam Way, 3pm-6pm.
- Thursday, Feb. 3: Joy Elementary, 24 Margaret Ave, 3pm-6pm.
- Thursday, Feb. 24: Hunter Elementary, 1630 Gilliam Way, 3pm-6pm
- The most effective way to protect yourself from COVID is to be vaccinated and boosted.
- Adolescents 12 and older are now eligible to get the Pfizer booster.
- The Pfizer booster is recommended five months after completion of the primary vaccine series. (It was previously recommended at six months.)
- COVID is a virus.
- Viruses constantly change through mutations.
- Sometimes these mutations result in a new variant (version) of the virus.
- Some variants emerge and disappear. Some persist.
- Variants are expected to occur – it’s a natural part of the virus process.
- The most effective way to reduce the introduction of new variants is to reduce the spread of the infection. (Distancing, masking, vaccinations, etc.)
- Vaccines reduce the risk of death and/or severe illness from a virus.