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How can I protect myself from the new Omicron version?

The same way you protect against COVID-19 caused by any other type: get a booster if you haven’t yet been vaccinated, if you’re eligible, and take other precautions, such as wearing a mask and Avoiding the crowd.

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As Omicron is gaining attention, the extra-infectious delta variant remains the cause of the overwhelming majority of infections and deaths in many places.

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“Delta is the real risk right now. Omicron is an uncertain threat,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, told the Associated Press. Regardless of the coronavirus type, Collins said “we know what to do.”

It will take a few weeks to learn important aspects about this latest version, including whether it is more contagious, causes more severe disease or evades immunity – and if so, how much.

Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, testifies before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Capitol Hill, May 26, 2021 in Washington.

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In the meantime, “what we have to do is add more layers of protection,” says Dr. Julie Vaishampayan of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. This is especially important with holiday travel and gatherings just around the corner.

The booster shot is one of those layers. The extra dose makes a big jump in virus-fighting antibodies. Even though the antibodies may not prove to be as effective against Omicron as they are against other types, simply having more of them may compensate – in addition to bolstering the protection against Delta.

A health worker carries a swab bag at a COVID-19 testing facility in Karachi, Pakistan, on January 28, 2021.

Apart from masking, avoiding crowds and improving ventilation, testing is another protective step. It is recommended for people who have COVID-19 symptoms or were potentially exposed to the virus. But it can also help ensure protection before holiday gatherings, even if everyone attending has been vaccinated, Vaishampayan says.