RICHMOND, Va. -- Two days after the first case of the omicron variant was identified in the Commonwealth, a Virginia health expert said vaccination was even more crucial now.
"This is something that’s affecting every everybody. Race, creed, religion doesn’t matter. This thing is killing people worldwide," said Christopher Rashad Green.
Green, joined others trickling in and out of the Arthur Ashe Center Saturday -- there to get their first, second, and third rounds of the COVID vaccine.
Green said he'd just received his booster.
"I feel more confident, I feel more empowered," he said.
He said the omicron Variant played a role in him getting his third shot Saturday and having loved ones die from the virus, he wanted to do his part to keep everyone protected.
"I can't ignore history as an African American man.You know history in the medical profession does play into my anxiety somewhat. But now that I've matured, I know about the science," Green said.
"On a personal note, I haven’t been the perfect model citizen I've taken chances. I've had some areas of my life where I took chances. And I feel like if I was able to do that out of ignorance, now that I know better, I have to do better," he said.
Dr. Brandy Darby, Veterinary Epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health, said getting vaccinated was even more crucial now, as the first case of the omicron Variant was identified in Virginia Thursday.
"It tends to mutate, and change, because it's infecting more people. So, if we can slow down transmission and have fewer people infected, then we don't have to learn about new emerging variants as often," Dr. Darby said.
COVID-19 in Virginia: 17,470 new cases reported last week; 66.1% of Virginians now fully vaccinated
The first known case of omicron in the Commonwealth was in an adult in the Northwest region, with no history of international travel. But they did travel domestically within their exposure period.
"Obviously, it's not terribly surprising, given that omicron has been identified in several other states across the U.S, that we would eventually find it in Virginia. And now we have," Dr. Darby said.
She said scientists were still learning about the variant, but they had observed a high rate of reinfection cases with the omicron Variant. Meaning people who had previously been infected with COVID, were once again getting it, this time with omicron.
However, she said so far, they believed omicron may cause less severe illness in those who get it.
"There are some changes in the spike protein, which is the target for a lot of our vaccine efforts. That said, we do think that the vaccine is going to continue to protect people against severe outcomes such as hospitalizations, and deaths," Dr. Darby said.
"We also think that it's probably really important that people get vaccine boosters if they're eligible, to continue to have a high level of protection in particular against omicron," she added.
As the holidays approached and many planned to gather with loved ones, Green hoped people would keep that in mind.
"Protecting others -- it’s not just about protecting you. Protecting our community, protecting your families, that’s what this is really about," he said.
Virginians age 5+ are eligible for COVID-19 vaccine. Pre-registration is no longer required,so go to Vaccine Finderto search for specific vaccines available near you or call 877-VAX-IN-VA (877-275-8343).
Have You Been Fully Vaccinated?
People are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks after their second dose in a 2-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
- 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine
How to Protect Yourself and Others When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated
COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. Based on what we know about COVID-19 vaccines, people who have been fully vaccinated can start to do some things that they had stopped doing because of the pandemic.
We’re still learning how vaccines will affect the spread of COVID-19. After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces—in public places until we know more.
These recommendations can help you make decisions about daily activities after you are fully vaccinated. They are not intended for healthcare settings.