Just as we were hoping to become complacent about a coronavirus that is no longer quite so novel, along comes omicron. The good news is that it doesn’t seem to be as deadly as some earlier variants, but that is offset by the bad news that it is spreading like wildfire. The first case in the country was noted in San Francisco earlier this month, and, at this writing, the first case had been found in Santa Clara County. Our turn is clearly imminent.

For those keeping really good notes, this one is SARS-CoV2, B.1.1.529 and it was first reported in Africa on Nov. 9. The fact that it seems to be everywhere little more than a month later is all you really need to know about the way it spreads. Officially, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says we know very little about what world health officials call a “variant of concern.” On its website, the CDC says experts don’t really know how easily it spreads, how seriously it affects those infected nor whether current vaccines will ultimately be as effective as they have been.

Given the uncertainties, does it still make since to get an initial dose or follow up with a booster vaccine? And should parents hold off on vaccinating their kids?

While they are short on definitive answers, the experts — the kind who are educated scientists rather than NFL quarterbacks or podcast hosts — have some theories and the benefit of growing experience. The best guess is that existing vaccines will provide some protection. They know there will be “breakthrough” infections among the vaccinated population and that those infected will be able to spread it even if they are asymptomatic. We also know that the vast majority of those who have been hospitalized and died from COVID-19 so far were not vaccinated.

We know the lack of definitive answers is stressful, particularly for parents of young children. We are careful what we put in kids’ bodies for a reason. We know that drugs like tobacco, marijuana and alcohol can be particularly harmful for kids, so we should be thoughtful about drugs like these vaccines, too, right?

Yes. That means we should follow expert advice. Right now, the CDC recommends everyone over the age of 5 be fully vaccinated and that those over 18 seek a booster two months out from the Johnson & Johnson shot or six months after getting one of the mRNA shots. Have

the experts tweaked their advice over this long pandemic? Yes. Is that reason to doubt them now? No. That is simply how science works. It is the accumulation of evidence in the pursuit of the truth. You would expect the CDC to give better advice on COVID-19 now than it did two years ago and it is doing just that.

By the way, the delta variant remains the most widespread in the United States. It has not faded away.

The holidays are here and we long to celebrate with family and friends.

We should and we will, but we must remain vigilant. Wear a mask indoors, particularly in crowded spaces or when traveling to other parts of the country where the virus is spreading more quickly. Take care of one another. Take care of yourself. Take the vaccine.

— Clay Lambert

Clay Lambert is the editorial director for Coastside News Group. After years working at regional daily newspapers, he began as editor of the Half Moon Bay Review in 2004.

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