“If you’re not vaccinated, you need to get vaccinated."By Andrea Alvarez

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) – As more countries around the world began loosening pandemic related restrictions, the newly detected coronavirus variant in South Africa, known as Omicron is prompting questions.

“We haven’t seen this set of mutations.. actually we haven’t seen as large a set of mutations as this one has,” said local immunity health expert Dr. Michael Teng with USF Health.

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As of Monday, the Biden administration temporarily banned visitors from South Africa and seven other southern African nations. This comes less than a month after it lifted pandemic rules barring visitors from more than 30 other countries.

“If you’re not vaccinated, you need to get vaccinated. If you’re not boosted, you need to get boosted. Masks, distance, everything we’ve been trying to do during the pandemic,” said Dr. Teng. “Some of these mutations have the potential to allow the virus to escape some of our immunity. What we’re seeing from the reports in South Africa is that the vaccine still has some efficacy against the Omicron variant. If it is immune-evasive, it is going to decrease, somewhat, the immune reactivity. But that’s not to say it’s going to be completely immune-evasive.”

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Like most health experts, Dr. Teng is awaiting more developing info on the variant.

“There’s no specific test for this variant. So, what we do is if/when we have positive tests, those tests get sent to the department of health, a subset of those tests then get sequenced. The United States is sequencing about three and a half percent of the positive samples that it gets.”

He says that main concern is already here in the bay area.

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“To be clear, this is a concerning variant, but the variant, if it’s here, it’s in very small numbers. We really have to worry about the variant transmitting now and that‘s the delta variant. There’s over 70,000 cases of the delta variant everyday so this is still a huge problem.”