Experts concerned Omicron variant could lead to fifth wave of COVID-19 cases

Doctor says at least two-thirds of Mississippians have some form of immunity, but fears it’s not enough
Published: Dec. 15, 2021 at 8:14 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Some health officials in Mississippi remain concerned the Omicron variant could lead to a fifth wave of COVID-19 cases in Mississippi because of a significant amount of the population that remains vulnerable to the virus.

Before Monday, average COVID-19 cases had increased each day for the last two weeks in Mississippi.

Laurel physician and past Mississippi State Medical Association president Dr. Mark Horne said the variant, first discovered in Mississippi nine days ago, appears to be more infectious than Delta from the preliminary data he’s seen.

“We know that Omicron is a highly mutated form of coronavirus. We have reason to believe based on reports in South Africa that it out-competed Delta to become the dominant form of COVID-19 in South Africa. That’s not good,” Horne said.

While the Mississippi State Department of Health hasn’t yet included Omicron on its weekly graph of COVID-19 variants and their prevalence in the state, those graphs do show how quickly Delta fueled the state’s fourth wave of infections over the course of two months.

“We’re in a better position to handle this increase, in some ways, and worse in some ways. What do I mean? Well, we’re better in that there’s more natural immunity, and there’s more vaccine-related immunity than we’ve ever had,” Horne said. “And that’s a good thing. It’s not as good as it could be.”

Horne estimates 65 to 70 percent of Mississippians have either been fully vaccinated or have a prior infection to give them that natural immunity, but fears it’s not enough to keep the state from seeing another surge in cases as we approach the holidays.

That’s why health experts are urging more Mississippians to get a booster shot, which increases the odds that you won’t have serious illness or complications if you are infected.

“If you’re playing poker, and somebody lets you stack the deck in your favor, do it. You know, increase your odds of winning. That’s what getting vaccinated does, that’s what getting the booster does,” Horne said. “It’s not some conspiracy; it’s just going to stack the deck in your favor to have a good outcome.”

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