As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to spread in Texas, state officials ask residents to remain vigilant against the disease.
The omicron variant first appeared in Texas on Dec. 6. Since then, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 90% of all positive cases in the region are caused by the variant.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) issued a bulletin Tuesday stating that due to a national shortage, supplies of sotrovimab, a type of monoclonal antibody that has shown to be effective against the Omicron variant, are exhausted.
Other monoclonal antibodies have not shown to be effective against the Omicron variant, according to DSHS. Infusion centers will continue to offer those antibodies for people diagnosed with a non-Omicron case of COVID-19.
Two new oral antiviral drugs authorized last week by the Food and Drug Administration will be available soon, though they are expected to have a limited initial supply. People with COVID-19 infections at high risk of hospitalization and death should contact their health care provider to discuss treatment options, according to DSHS.
Much remains unknown about the omicron variant including whether it causes more severe illnesses or is more deadly. However, studies suggest that those vaccinated, especially those who have received a booster shot, are in the best position to prevent infection and hospitalization.
Nonetheless, experts believe the variant is highly transmissible and officials have recorded many breakthrough cases among the vaccinated.
“All of us have a date with omicron,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “If you’re going to interact with society, if you’re going to have any type of life, omicron will be something you encounter, and the best way you can encounter this is to be fully vaccinated.”
COVID cases overall continue to rise in Texas, as state officials reported nearly 9,000 new confirmed cases on Dec. 20. By Dec. 27, the number had risen to 17,331. In early November, the state was reporting around 3,000 confirmed new cases per day, according to state data.
In Hunt County, the number of estimated active cases stood at 163 on Dec. 20. By Dec. 27, the number had risen to 235, according to DSHS. In Rockwall County, the number of estimated active cases stood at 277 on Dec. 20. By Dec. 27, the number had risen to 391, according to DSHS.
Although reported deaths remain low, state health officials urge Texans to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible, if eligible, to increase protection against the virus.
“Vaccination is proven to reduce hospitalizations, severe illness and death and is our best weapon to use against COVID-19 and its variants, like Omicron,” Douglas Loveday, DSHS press officer said.
Loveday added that the DSHS encourage individuals to continue to use proven measures to reduce the spread of the disease such as wearing a mask, social distancing, improving ventilation and washing hands frequently, as well as getting tested before meeting with friends and family.
The Associated Press contributed to this report