Senior Older and Wiser By June Michel



OK SENIORS, THIS REMINDS ME OF THE MOVIE GHOSTBUSTERS. Which one of you said “Delta variant? What’s next?” The quick answer is Omicron. It’s true, just when we were getting ahead of the Delta variant, the World Health Organization is sounding the alarms about the new Omicron variant that is causing illness and death in Africa. They say its quickly spreading around the world.


WHAT IS OMICRON? Omicron is a new coronavirus variant. Coronavirus is a live virus fighting to stay alive by spreading disease. The first Coronavirus disease was Covid-19. Scientists discovered a vaccine that was over 90% effective at stopping the spread of Covid-19. Look at it as a war, for humans to live we must stop the spread but for the virus to live Coronavirus must spread. The virus mutated to get around the vaccine and we had a new world challenge called the Delta variant. The public understood the crisis and supported vaccination programs. We made great strides against the Delta variant. We were winning the battle. The virus mutated again into Omicron. Since we plan to win the war, scientists are looking at ways to tweak our new vaccines.


WHY DO THE VIRUS NAMES SOUND LIKE GREEK OR SOMETHING?

They are Greek. Last May, to avoid confusion, the World Health Organization decided to start referring to the variants of most concern by using Greek number names. Delta is Greek for four, omicron is Greek for the number fifteen. So, the Delta variant was the fourth major variant of concern. Omicron is the fifteenth variant of international concern. But there was another important reason the WHO turned to Greek numbering, to avoid stigma. Remember when the virus first broke out and Trump insisted on calling it the Chinese virus? Trump unleashed racial scapegoating. Asian seniors were beat up and harassed in the streets because people blamed them for the pandemic. The Delta variant got its start in India. The new Omicron variant is coming out of Africa. As they say, we are all in this together.


CAN OUR VACCINES FIGHT OMICRON?

Quick answer, yes with changes. Just today, the Moderna CEO is reported as saying our current vaccine may not be as effective against Omicron as it was against Delta. But we know from our annual flu shots that as the virus mutates, vaccine change is required. According to the CDC webpage the first national flu shot for influenza A and B became available in 1942. Like coronavirus, the influenza virus mutates to stay alive. Every year scientists must design a new flu shot aimed at fighting the influenza variants of most concern. That’s why the content of our annual flu shot is different each year. Because both our flu shots and the coronavirus vaccines have been highly successful at saving lives, coronavirus vaccines with annual changes are probably here to stay. And yes, they will be effective.


REMEMBER, you read it in the FACTS Newspaper.


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