MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — As COVID-19 numbers rise, the question of vaccination is recurring one. Those relying on natural immunity may have been protected, but this is not the case with the Omicron variant. 

The Mobile County Health Department (MCHD) reported an estimated 977 COVID-19 cases on Dec. 30 in Mobile County. 

The uptick in cases is due to the widespread COVID-19 Omicron variant. 

What’s the difference in the variants and why does that matter?

The COVID-19 Omicron variant was found in Mobile after it was discovered during a routine genetic sequencing test.

Genetic sequencing is how health officials can tell the difference between the different strains of the virus. Currently, the most prevalent are Omicron, Delta, Alpha and SARVASV-2.

Virus Outbreak-Viral Questions-Home Tests
(AP Illustration/Peter Hamlin)

Unfortunately, natural immunity does not protect against all of them, especially Omicron.

This is because they are genetically different. A person infected with SARVASV-2 or the Delta variant has natural immunity against those, but are 6.5 times more likely to get the virus again than a vaccinated person, according to the MCHD Health Officer Dr. Bernard H. Eichold II.

Those with natural immunity from the Delta variant, may not be protected against the Omicron variant, according to Eichold. Essentially, our bodies aren’t familiar with the Omicron variant, so it’s harder to fight it off than the delta, Alpha or SARVASV-2.

Instead of relying on natural immunity, the MCHD is urging residents to get vaccinated. 

Omicron spreads much faster than other variants

Although the infection rate for Omicron is lower, and residents only have to quarantine for five days instead of 14, it spreads much faster than Delta or SARVASV-2. 

As of Dec. 30, the number of new cases reported by the MCHD is 977, along with two confirmed deaths from COVID-19.

Two days ago, only 435 were reported

MCHD health officials fear Omicron will overwhelm the healthcare system if residents don’t protect themselves against the variant.

Monoclonal antibodies aren’t effective against the virus

Monoclonal antibody treatment isn’t effective against the Omicron variant.

Dr. Aldo Calvo, Medical Director of Family Medicine at Broward Health, shows a Regeneron monoclonal antibody infusion bag during a news conference Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021 at the Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Monoclonal antibody treatment has been used to prevent those infected with COVID-19 from being hospitalized, but manufacturing for these treatments has temporarily stopped due to its ineffectiveness against the Omicron variant, according to Dr. Rendi Murphree with the MCHD.

The treatments are effective against Delta, Alpha and SARVASV-2, but not the Omicron variant.

Don’t rely on antiviral treatments

Although the MCH an antiviral treatment for Omicron, it is in very short supply.

This image provided by Pfizer in October 2021 shows the company’s COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. U.S. health regulators on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021 authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus. (Pfizer via AP)

The FDA did approve emergency treatments of Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment that can be taken at home. However, only 780 treatments will be available for the entire state of Alabama for the next couple of weeks, meaning Mobile will only receive a small portion of those treatments, according to Murphree.

Paxlovid also includes side affects and not everyone can take the drug. It must be taken at very specific times and must be prescribed by a doctor.

Where can I get vaccinated?

You can receive your vaccine at Walgreens, CVS and the MCHD clinic at Festival Center. Residents can receive free walk-in COVID-19 vaccines and testing at the Festival center.

The MCHD’s Festival Center is at 3725 Airport Blvd. in Mobile.

They are open:

  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more information, click here.