Understanding Omicron and Other Variants of Covid-19

Understanding Omicron and Other Variants of Covid-19

In December 2020, a new coronavirus variant was reported, and since then, many other COVID-19 variants have been making headlines. Each variant has been reported to be more transmissible than others because viruses constantly change gradually via mutations. As expected, news media have reported multiple variants of coronavirus globally. Scientists have continuously been comparing genetic differences of various COVID-19 variants and the severity of their illnesses. Understanding Omicron and other variants of Covid-19 can seem confusing but it’s important for us to be familiar with the current landscape of the pandemic.

How Do Variants From The Coronavirus Emerge?

With replication of a virus over numerous life cycles, mutation(s) occurs in the viral genetic material. Since coronavirus is an RNA virus, the mutation is the nature of RNA viruses, and this is how variants evolve via genetic modifications. Usually, these mutations over time are either harmful or have no impact on the virus. This is how variants of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged throughout the pandemic [1].

Scientists have been studying the COVID-19 variants to determine whether they’re more pathogenic or spread more easily. They have also been investigating the efficacy of today’s COVID-19 vaccines against these variants and whether vaccinated people could become infected with the new variant or not. Studies have suggested that current vaccines are resistant against these variants [2]. 

Types Of COVID-19 Variants:

Until now, different variants of the coronavirus have been identified worldwide. In the United States, four variants of concern have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified a new variant named Omicron. Omicron spreads more quickly and easily compared to other variants. 

1. Understanding the Omicron Variant:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) identified this variant on November 26, 2021. 
  • The first case of Omicron was reported in South Africa, but now, it is a dominant variant in the U.S. and other countries.
  • The Omicron variant spreads more easily than Delta because of a large number of mutations. 
  • Protection against Omicron can substantially be increased by the COVID-19 vaccine booster. 
  • Studies have shown less severity of illness from Omicron than Delta. However, Omicron is still expected to cause severe infection in a large number of people, including young children [3].

2. Understanding the Delta Variant:

  • Delta variant is identified as a dominant variant in the U.S. 
  • Compared to the Alpha variant, Delta is two times more transmissible and contagious than previous COVID-19 variants [4].
  • It can also infect fully vaccinated people but has shown to manifest with less severity and with a lot fewer symptoms.
  • Booster doses after six months of a second mRNA dose can increase protection against the Delta variant.

3. Understanding the Gamma Variant:

  • The Gamma variant was first reported in Brazil in November 2020 and later detected in the U.S. in January 2021. 
  • Compared to the Beta variant, it has more critical mutations and is more susceptible to antibodies. 
  • Unlike the original coronavirus, the Delta variant spreads more easily. 

4. Understanding the Beta Variant:

  • In December 2020, the Beta variant first emerged in South Africa and was first detected in the U.S.
  • Unlike the non-variant coronavirus, the Beta variant spreads more quickly.
  • COVID-19 vaccines show efficacy against this variant.

5. Understanding the Alpha Variant:

  • The Alpha variant first emerged in the U.K in September 2020. 
  • It is two times more transmissible than the original coronavirus.
  • In the United States, new cases of the Alpha variant are declining [5].


With a global surge in infections of COVID-19 new variants, it is important for all individuals to develop an understanding of Omicron and other Covid-19 variants as well as keep themselves socially distant and get vaccinated. If you have received a second dose of the mRNA vaccine six months ago, it is important to receive a booster dose to re-gain extra protection against new variants.

For more information about COVID-19 variants and for Nasal Swab and Rapid Testing, contact A-Z Primary Care and Walk-In.

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  1. Gómez-Carballa A, Pardo-Seco J, Bello X, Martinón-Torres F, Salas A. Superspreading in the emergence of COVID-19 variants. Trends Genet 2021;37:1069–80. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tig.2021.09.003
  2. Cevik M, Grubaugh ND, Iwasaki A, Openshaw P. COVID-19 vaccines: Keeping pace with SARS-CoV-2 variants. Cell 2021;184:5077–81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2021.09.010
  3. Karim SSA, Karim QA. Omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant: a new chapter in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet 2021;398:2126–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02758-6
  4. Shiehzadegan S, Alaghemand N, Fox M, Venketaraman V. Analysis of the Delta Variant B.1.617.2 COVID-19. Clin Pract 2021;11. https://doi.org/10.3390/clinpract11040093

Domingo P, de Benito N. Alpha variant SARS-CoV-2 infection: How it all starts. EBioMedicine 2021;74:103703. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103703.