Local doctors say vaccines and boosters best tools against COVID-19 Omicron variant

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – After the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in Illinois, local doctors are encouraging the community to protect themselves.

Tuesday, the Illinois Department of Health the Chicago Department of Public Health announced the state’s first case of the Omicron variant.

“We’re an international destination and whatever is anywhere in the world is going to be here, it’s just a matter of detecting it,” said Dr. James Nevin, Chief Medical Officer at Carle-Bromenn Medical Center.

The first case was found in Chicago, but local doctors anticipate it’s only a matter of time before it’s present in Central Illinois.

“The strain has been spreading, and now it’s more that we’re just starting to find it by additional testing and more vigilance,” said Dr. Douglas Kasper, section head of infectious disease at University of Illinois College of Medicine-Peoria.

While much about Omicron is still unknown, scientists and doctors are working to learn more about the variant’s effects.

“Which includes seriousness of illness to different age groups, seriousness to people by medical condition,” Dr. Kasper said.

Kasper said the most important thing is that people get fully vaccinated and receive a booster, whether you’ve had a previous natural infection or not.

“Pfizer has discussed with their internal studies that any reduced effectiveness from prior vaccine, for the Omicron variant, was mostly restored in those who have received a booster,” Kasper said.

With an increase in COVID-19 cases overall since Thanksgiving, Dr. Nevin encourages the community to not let their guard down.

“People have got together, and they weren’t vaccinated, and they were exposed to younger patients, and this is probably going to happen again in December. So this is real, and we have to pay attention,” Nevin said.

Kasper said the dominant strain of COVID-19 remains the Delta variant, but in small parts of South Africa, it has become Omicron. He said he expects the same to happen in the U.S. unless cases decrease and there’s less spread.

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