A virus cannot target a specific individual regardless of vaccination status. “Immune evasion,” along with increased transmissibility, are the reasons for Omicron’s spread.
The type was discovered worldwide, including in the United States, after the Omicron COVID-19 variant was first reported to the World Health Organization by South Africa on 24 November.
Since the emergence of the COVID-19 variant, there has been speculation that vaccinated individuals are more likely to catch omicrons than unvaccinated individuals.
According to data from Google Trends, “Omicron in Vaccines” saw a spike in searches since December 5. There are hundreds of tweets claiming that the variant is “targeted” versus non-vaccinated (see example) Here, Here, Here, Here And Here,
Can the Omicron variant specifically target a vaccinated person?
No, the COVID-19 variant – which includes Omicron – cannot target vaccinated people.
The CDC and WHO say that vaccination provides greater protection against serious illness and hospitalization and helps reduce the chance that someone can spread COVID-19, but it does not completely eliminate the risk. Is.
what we found
The World Health Organization (WHO) on 26 November designated Omicron a variant of concern because preliminary evidence suggests it can re-infect people more easily than other types.
Since then, health professionals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO have recommended that individuals get an additional booster shot to help prevent the variant.
One type cannot specifically target a vaccinated person to an uninfected person because that is not how the virus works.
Dr. Paul Bienaz describes VERIFY omicron as a “product of viral evolution”.
“So this virus has been passed from human-to-human to more humans, and in some individuals it persists for a significant amount of time in those individuals. And over time, what happens is that viruses mutate, they diversify, they do so in a random way,” he said.
Bienasz explained that mutations become smart at escaping antibodies, and that the antibodies provided by the vaccine are “very similar antibodies that Omicron would have previously encountered and evolved to resist.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) refers to this as “immune evasion,” and this, along with the increased transmissibility, is why Omicron is spreading so rapidly.
In addition, there is not enough evidence to support claims by the CDC or WHO that vaccinated individuals are more likely to be infected with the Omicron variant. The CDC says they are still collecting data on how well the vaccines and drugs against Omicron are working.
The WHO told VERIFY in an email: “There are still limited data on the clinical severity of Omicron. More data are needed to understand the severity profile and how severity is affected by vaccination and pre-existing immunity. ,
According to the CDC, people who were not vaccinated had a higher risk of testing positive for COVID-19 and a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 than those who were not fully vaccinated. was vaccinated from.
Studies have already shown that boosters are effective. When a person gets a booster shot, it essentially provides them with an additional safety net against the COVID-19 variant, Bienasz told VERIFY.
“People who have had two mRNA vaccine doses, and then a subsequent booster dose or a third dose, their level of immunity begins to approach the higher levels of immunity that we have seen in people who are both infected, and have been vaccinated,” he said, being more immune to Omicron. “Again, their antibodies are much better at dealing with forms like Omicron. And I think that’s a very powerful argument in favor of getting a booster for everyone at this point in time.”
Dr. Saralyn Mark told VERIFY that people think that the Omicron target is directly related to vaccine hesitancy or resistance, and that individuals really need to think about the bigger picture – the purpose of a vaccine.
“We have vaccines to reduce the chances of hospitalization and death. And we know it has been quite effective. But we have seen in our hospitals that more than 80% of the people in the hospital are those who have not been vaccinated. With the Omicron version, it’s a variant that has more than 50 different mutations and can evade parts of our immune system,” Mark said. “But what we’ve seen is that people who get the vaccine They tend to be milder, more mild cases. It is extremely important that we use our other public health measures as well, such as maintaining social distancing, hand washing and ventilation.”
More from VERIFY: Fact Sheet: COVID-19 Omron Edition