Thoughts & Essays

New COVID-19 Variant Dropped

Things went about as expected with my booster shot. By the end of work on Wednesday I was feeling cruddy, and by bedtime I had the freezing chills, fever spikes, and joint and muscle pain. The aches were bad enough that I barely slept Wednesday night and when I did sleep I just dozed. Thursday morning was pretty rough, but by the afternoon I was doing all right and basically just felt bad because I hadn’t had any sleep. This morning I feel fine.

10/10, highly recommend, go get your shots, people. Even if it sucks a bunch, go get your shots. Especially considering there’s another goddamned variant heating up, B.1.1.529 (just named “Omicron”).

So, a few things to note:

👉 Omicron’s spike protein has a bunch of mutations, and the types of mutations it has are usually associated with increased transmissibility and immune erosion. Which means that it may spread more readily and the vaccines may not be as protective against infection – and that’s in comparison to Delta.

👉 They just found Omicron like two days ago, so we don’t know anything for sure yet. Resist the urge to panic for a couple of weeks while they run tests and whatnot.

👉 One of the main reasons everyone has their panties in a bunch over Omicron is that there’s some early possible evidence that it may be “out competing” the Delta variant. There have been other scary variants since Delta took over, but those variants couldn’t “out compete” Delta. IE, they couldn’t beat Delta’s viral spread, so Delta is the variant that took over.

Very early evidence that may be a fluke indicates that Omicron may be out competing Delta, which could give it the ability to take over as the main variant infecting populations. And if all that sounds wishy-washy, it should, because these numbers are so sparkly new and fresh that scientists aren’t sure yet if they’re seeing Omicron actually out compete Delta, or if it’s just a blip in the numbers due to where and how the variant popped up.

👉 Remember that basically all news outlets make their money off getting you to click through and view their ads, and the best way to get you click through is to scare the hell out of you by touting “a new super-mutant COVID variant!” or “alarming new COVID variant may escape vaccine protection!” and so on.

Some Reading:

Twitter Threads

  • Josh Marshall, journalist, editor of TPM, and lapsed historian, has a thread on why Omicron means we should really be ramping up production of vaccines and start massive, world-wide vaccination programs, because until we do, we’re just going to be dealing with variant after variant. 🧵 Read the thread.
  • Kai Kupferschmidt, science journalist and molecular biologist, has a thread examining early reports of the new variant and why it’s of concern, as well as explaining why we don’t know much and why it’ll take a little time to learn more. 🧵 Read the thread.
  • Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases doctor, has a thread explaining why it’s not likely that the new variant will completely escape vaccine protection. This thread is a bit more dense and jargony, FYI. 🧵 Read the thread.


Edited to Add:

I just found this excellent newsletter from Katelyn Jetelina, an epidemiologist and public health expert, which explains Omicron and the science and details associated with it much better than I did. Go read it.

It’s a Substack newsletter, which means you’ll first get a signup screen, but directly under the signup box there’ll be a tiny text link that says “let me read it first,” which you can click to skip the signup process.

Quick addendum, Re: the above newsletter: Several of the other experts I’ve read today are more hesitant to commit to the idea that Omicron is out competing Delta, whereas Jetelina seems to think it is. 🤷 I’m not any kind of expert so I can’t say, and ideas will change fast as new information comes to light.