The Omicron Variant and Vaccination Updates


As we approach almost 2 years of the Coronavirus pandemic, COVID has continued evolving and mutating. The original variant was strong and contagious enough to spark an entire worldwide pandemic. The next major mutation we saw was known as the Delta variant, which had stronger symptoms and was even more transmissible. Recently, a new strain of the virus, known as the Omicron variant, has taken over.

The strain first originated in November 2021 and is infamous for its high transmissibility. It was designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on November 26th. It is two to three times more transmissible than the Delta variant. This variant has proved to be problematic due to its milder symptoms that many simply assume are just signs of a common cold. Symptoms include the following:

  • Cough
  • Runny nose
  • Fatigue
  • Sore Throat
  • Headache

The major concern is that the symptom of losing sense of smell or taste is uncommon compared to other variants, which is the main symptom most people think of when considering if they have Covid. This is the main reason for the misconception of a common cold.

However, the Omicron variant may prove to be beneficial in the long run. Some researchers and health experts hope that as the virus continues to mutate, the symptoms will become even milder as they did with omicron. If it mutates as expected, the virus mortality rate will decline, and the symptoms will become less life threatening and more manageable. This trend occurred with the Spanish Flu of 1918, and the disease began to phase out.

Just as with other variants, vaccines have proved to make the effects of the virus milder, especially if the infected person has received their booster shot. However, the vaccine does have age requirements for everyone’s safety, especially younger children. Since the age requirements to receive the vaccine have been changing, the following explains the authorized ages to receive each type of vaccine. For Pfizer, one must be 5 years or older to receive the vaccine. For both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, one must be 18 years or older. It is also important to note that all vaccine brands can provide booster shots to those 18 years and older, and Pfizer can also provide boosters starting at 12 years old 5 months after the first dose was received.

Locally, the omicron variant has had a significant impact. The Mayor of Boston, Michelle Wu, has introduced a vaccine mandate for indoor dining, fitness, and entertainment locations. The mandate also includes vaccination phases, including phases for youth vaccination. Starting on January 15th, all people 12 years or older must provide proof of the first dose. Beginning on February 15th, people 12 years or older must then provide proof of a second dose before entering. On March 1st, kids aged 5-11 must provide proof of the first dose, then proof of second dose beginning on May 1st. The city of Boston also plans to develop an app for users to use as a “vaccine passport” when entering businesses, similar to the successful app used in New York City.

Vaccines are the most powerful tool we have to fight this pandemic. Vaccination saves lives, and closing vaccination gaps is the best way to support and protect our communities, businesses, and cultural institutions during this pandemic.

— Michelle Wu, Mayor of Boston

Even more locally at NDA, administration has recognized the surging covid cases and issued a statement on their plans to keep the school community safe. In an email sent out on December 30th titled “Information for Back to School Return,” Mrs. Kenneally and Dr. Melley released several new covid updates. Regarding vaccinations, any new vaccine or booster information can be submitted to the Health Office via a photocopy of the vaccination card delivered to the main office. Masks will continue to be required indoors. Fresh air breaks after lunch will now be extended to 20 minutes. Students that would usually need to quarantine when considered a close contact can now enroll in the “Test and Stay” Program to remain in school. For others that are required to quarantine, synchronous online learning is now available.

The sudden onset of more pandemic-induced panic may come as a shock and can feel overwhelming after becoming more conditioned to entering stores without masks and getting back to “normal.” If you are feeling nervous or anxious about the pandemic or any other subject, do not hesitate to reach out to a friend, parent, or guidance counselor.

Remember to monitor your symptoms and report any health updates to NDA’s Health Office. Wearing a mask is the safest way to protect yourself and others to ensure a happy and healthy year to come.