CHICAGO (WLS) -- It may not have been detected yet, but Chicago's top doctor today said it's all but certain the Omicron variant is already in the United States.
"I'm not concerned about detecting the variant. I'm concerned about how we respond to it," said Dr Allison Arwdy, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner.
That response Arwady said has nothing to do with more shutdowns, but getting shots into arms, and that includes booster shots for all people 18 and over who have been fully vaccinated for more than six months.
"I want people to get a booster now. Why do I want people to get a booster now? Because forget Omicron. Delta is doing a job," Arwady said.
Little is yet known about Omicron which was detected in South Africa two weeks ago. According to health officials it is highly contagious and may at least partially evade existing vaccines, leading manufacturers like Moderna and Pfizer to say they may well have to start working on variations of the current shots, which could take up to three months. So should those who are eligible wait until those new boosters are developed? The answer, according to medical professionals is no.
"We don't know this yet, we'll probably know in the next couple of weeks. It's likely that even though our current vaccine won't cover for the new variant completely, it will still help mitigate the level of symptoms you get" said Dr. Rachel Rubin, Cook County Department of Health.
" You're running the risk of getting an infection with this virus if you don't get the booster now. We don't know what the future is going to hold. We didn't know till last week that this was a problem," said Dr. Richard Novak, UI Health.
And while World Health Organization today made it clear travel bans won't stop the spread of Omicron, they did put out an advisory. Until more is known, people who are over 60, or with comorbidities, should for now, postpone all travel.