As the new year begins, COVID is still making headlines. The newest variant, omicron, is spreading like wild-fire. Cases are doubling about every two days. What does it mean for you? What does it mean for the pharmacy?
The omicron variant first emerged in South Africa and has been detected in at least 89 countries. So far, hospitalization and death rates are significantly lower than with previous variants.
For most people, especially those that have been vaccinated and received their booster shot, the omicron variant results in a mild illness that resembles a cold. Symptoms often include a cough, congestion, runny nose, and fatigue. Unlike previous variants, the loss of taste or smell is not common with this new variant.
It’s too early for there to be any scientific studies about omicron; however, it appears that it does not burrow as deep in the lungs. Omicron does replicate faster higher up in the respiratory tract and, therefore, acts more like bronchitis than pneumonia.
With the flu, the delta variant, and the omicron variant all circulating, it’s impossible for anyone to diagnose themselves. If you have any cold or flu like symptoms, it’s important to get tested. Don’t assume you just have a cold.
If you are exposed to someone who has tested positive, it is recommended that you wait 72 hours after exposure to be tested. Everyone has to be willing to err on the side of caution to keep from spreading the illness to others. While the symptoms seem less severe, the threat of omicron is still significant. Why? This variant is spreading so quickly that the shear number of people infected is a concern.
Early studies suggest that a booster jab could provide around 85% protection against severe disease from omicron, but that means 15% of boosted individuals won’t be fully protected, not to mention those that are not vaccinated.
Early research also suggests that the monoclonal anti-body (MAB) treatment that has been used to treat patients with early on-set COVID may not be effective against the omicron variant. Therefore, the state of Pennsylvania has suspended this treatment option for the time being. This has everyone looking for new treatment options.
On December 22, 2021, the FDA announced the first oral antiviral treatment for COVID: Paxlovid. This pill introduced by Pfizer has been authorized for patients to take at home. Paxlovid combines a new antiviral drug named nirmatrelver and an older one called ritonavir. Pfizer released results that showed treatment cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% if given to high-risk adults within a few days of symptom onset. If given within the first five days, the efficacy was similar: 88%.
With new information daily, Norland Avenue Pharmacy is doing as much as possible to serve and protect our community. We continue to offer Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations and boosters on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm and Saturday from 8:30am to 12:30pm. We also carry COVID test kits for you to use at home with results in 15 minutes (however they do sell out quickly).
If and when the state resumes the use of monoclonal antibody treatments, we will be sure to update our website accordingly. Please be sure to check the website regularly for up-dates.
Thank you for trusting us with your health. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call the pharmacy. It is our pleasure to serve you.