Discovery of the omicron variant in more than 14 countries to date is the latest evidence that the global COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. While much about omicron remains unknown, there are immediate steps that are essential to reduce the risk of COVID infection, sickness, hospitalization and death.
Getting fully vaccinated and receiving boosters when eligible is the best way to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2. As vaccination rates rise within communities, everyone is better protected from variants, particularly immunosuppressed patients, who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 disease.
Increasing vaccination is important not only in the United States, but also globally to prevent the development and spread of new variants that may be more transmissible and dangerous. Because travel restrictions have been shown to have limited ability to stop the spread of infection, the tools we already have available, such as vaccination, testing and masking, are the most effective strategies to contain the pandemic.
Infectious diseases experts are encouraged that major vaccine manufacturers are already considering plans to optimize existing COVID-19 vaccines to fight emerging variants. Time is of the essence.
Layered prevention strategies that include vaccination, testing, masking in indoor public spaces and gathering outdoors when possible are all important ways to reduce risk of infection. Testing for SARS-CoV-2 should be increased, especially when visiting family and friends, spending significant time indoors with others or traveling. Rapid testing is an essential part of prevention when available.
The experience with the delta variant is a lesson to the global community that increasing vaccination, testing, masking and adhering to all national and local guidance protects health.
Daniel P. McQuillen, MD, FIDSA – President, Infectious Diseases Society of America
Mary K. Hayden, MD, FIDSA, FSHEA – President, Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is a community of over 12,000 physicians, scientists, and public health experts who specialize in infectious diseases. Its purpose is to improve the health of individuals, communities, and society by promoting excellence in patient care, education, research, public health, and prevention relating to infectious diseases. Learn more at https://www.idsociety.org/.
The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) is a professional society representing physicians and other healthcare professionals around the world who possess expertise and passion for healthcare epidemiology, infection prevention, and antimicrobial stewardship. The society’s work improves public health by establishing infection-prevention measures and supporting antibiotic stewardship among healthcare providers, hospitals, and health systems. SHEA and its members strive to improve patient outcomes and create a safer, healthier future for all. Visit SHEA online at shea-online.org, facebook.com/SHEApreventingHAIs and twitter.com/SHEA_Epi.
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