The Journal Gazette
Monday, December 20, 2021 8:12 pm

Health commissioner expects COVID-19 omicron variant here

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Allen County had no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 omicron variant Monday, but the community's top doctor expected that would soon change given its rapid spread.

It's possible the latest mutation of the coronavirus is already here, undetected because gene sequencing is performed on only a small number of COVID-19 samples, said Dr. Matthew Sutter, county health commissioner.

Federal health officials said Monday omicron is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week.

Indiana's first case – from a sample collected Dec. 9 – was announced Sunday.

Details about omicron are limited, Sutter said.

"There are early indications that previous infection is less protective than with previous variants and that the mRNA vaccines with boosters provide some protection," Sutter said by email. "We continue to urge all eligible Hoosiers to get vaccinated and get booster shots if it's been more than six months since the primary vaccination."

Individuals as young as 5 are eligible for the vaccine.

As of early Monday, 54.2% of eligible Allen County residents were fully vaccinated, the same as the statewide rate, according to Indiana's vaccination dashboard.

Sutter encouraged people to take precautions with Christmas gatherings.

"If you choose to gather in person, especially with vulnerable people, vaccinations and rapid tests can provide some level of risk reduction," Sutter said. "When practical, masks can also reduce the risk of spread of the virus."

Those most at risk are unvaccinated people 65 and older, he said.

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