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New COVID variant reinforces need for vaccination

The Georgia Department of Public Health reports that it is closely monitoring the emergence of a new COVID variant first detected in southern Africa. The variant has not been detected in Georgia at this time.

Named Omicron by the World Health Organization, the variant has a large number of mutations. Scientists are studying the variant to determine how quickly and easily it spreads, whether it causes more severe illness and how well the current COVID vaccines will protect against it. 

So far, a few dozen COVID cases caused by Omicron have been identified in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel and Belgium, according to information from the D.P.H..

“What is known is that COVID vaccination helps stop transmission of infection which prevents new variants from emerging,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Vaccination is more important than ever with the emergence of this new variant and the holidays just around the corner.”

There are 3,708 Seminole County residents who are considered fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, December 8, according to the D.P.H.’s online Vaccine Distribution Dashboard. That’s 45 percent of the county’s population. 

The information indicates that 49 percent of the county’s population, or 4,053 residents, have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The vaccine finder website, vaccines.gov, reports that the free vaccines are available at the Seminole County Health Department and Walgreens Pharmacy in Donalsonville. 

All Georgians over the age of five are now eligible for COVID vaccination. Booster doses of vaccine are recommended for adults 18 and older who have completed their first series of vaccine.

State public health officials say that individuals who have symptoms of COVID or who may have been exposed to someone with COVID should get tested. Based on available data, PCR testing can detect the presence of the Omicron variant.

The D.P.H. reports it will continue to monitor information about Omicron and provide updates as new information becomes available.

As of Monday, there were six new cases of COVID-19 involving Seminole County residents in the last two weeks, according to data from D.P.H. 

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, there have been 1,221 cases here based on P.C.R. and antigen positive testing, and 23 county residents have died from the disease caused by the novel Coronavirus, the state public health information shows.

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