Doctors: Long Islander with omicron could be evidence that vaccines work with new variant
The first Long Islander to test positive for the omicron variant was fully vaccinated and recently received a booster, according to medical officials. Doctors say this is actually evidence that vaccines are working well.
Dr. Dwayne Breining, of Northwell Health Laboratories, says people should be encouraged because the 67-year-old woman from Suffolk County is only showing mild symptoms of a headache and a cough.
"There's not enough cases with this omicron variant yet, but so far the news has been kind of encouraging on the few cases we know about because it seems like everyone has mild symptoms," Breining says.
The Suffolk County woman recently visited South Africa, which is what prompted scientists at Northwell's lab to forward her sample to be sequenced by the New York state Health Department.
Nassau's Health Commissioner Dr. Larry Eisenstein tells News 12 the new variant still has not been detected in his county, but he wouldn't be surprised if it's found soon. He says "there's no reason to panic."
The emergence of the new variant seems to have caused a nationwide rush to get vaccinated with 2.2 million administered Thursday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That marks the largest single day total since May.
"Vaccination, even if it's not a perfect match, is going to provide some protection," Eisenstein says. "And for many people, that protection is the different between being severely ill or even dying versus just having a mild illness."
Northwell Health Laboratories has always been sending approximately 10% of positive specimens to be sequences for variants. That percentage has increased a little bit for the search for the omicron variant.
If there is a change in the way people who test positive for the omicron variant are treated, there could be even more sequencing.