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OMICRON: Questions, concerns surrounding new COVID-19 variant

No cases have been confirmed in the U.S., but it's something local health experts are monitoring closely.

TYLER, Texas — A new COVID-19 variant has caught the attention of governing bodies around the globe: Omicron.

It’s been identified in several countries, with most cases in South Africa, where it was first discovered. No cases have been confirmed in the U.S., but it's something local health experts are monitoring closely.  

Some of the symptoms reported by doctors in other countries are fatigue, body aches, headache and a scratchy throat.

Dr. Paul McGaha, Chair of the Department of Community Health at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UTHSCT), says the changes in these mutations show potential warning signs.

“The thing about that is these mutations or changes in the virus particle may, and that's an important word may render it more infectious and may render it less susceptible to the vaccine,” said Dr. McGaha. 

Dr. McGaha says health experts are unsure if that’s the case. Studies are being conducted worldwide to find out whether this mutation evades the current COVID-19 vaccines. 

“With the coronaviruses, they're, prone to mutate, so we want to make sure that match is good with the vaccine,” said Dr. McGaha. 

Scientists and health experts could reformulate the current vaccine if they feel the Omicron variant warrants the change.. 

“The new mRNA vaccines, they can reformulate those within about a 90-day, 100-day period to combat Omicron and they're already starting to work on that," said Dr. McGaha. "So that's a good thing. Should we need to do that."

Dr. McFaha adds it's best to get the COVID-19 booster eligible for all Americans over the age of 18. 

Health officials say it’s still too early to tell if those who are inoculated against COVID-19 would need to take a new shot if Omicron proves resistant to current vaccines. 

Information on Omicron and its effects will be more evident within the next three to four weeks. 

To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines and where you can schedule your appointment click here.