HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - South Africa has become ground zero for the Omicron variant. It's a variant of concern because of mutations that scientists fear could make it more transmissible than the Delta variant.
"From what we’re hearing out of South Africa, this is a very transmissible variant similar to Delta. With that change in the spike protein, it makes it harder to target with their antibodies we produce through vaccinations," Dr. Ryan Light with Greenbrier Family Medicine said.
So far, the variant has been linked to a spike in cases outside Johannesburg. The U.S. has not yet reported any cases of the Omicron variant.
"We don’t know how well our vaccines are going to work against it. But Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson are going to do their homework in seeing if their vaccines will work and how effective they are against this new variant," Dr. Light said.
The U.S. will restrict visitors from South Africa and seven other countries in the region starting Monday.
"What we need to do first is verify the rapid test will pick up the new variant. Because it may be that the rapid test will not pick that up as easily as it did the other variants," Dr. Light said.
The president of Celebrate Healthcare in Hampton Roads says she believes the variant has an impact in pushing more people to get vaccinated.
"We’ve seen more people come in and get their first shot because of this new variant or came in and got their booster and weren’t considering getting their booster before," Gaylene Kanoyton, the President of Celebrate Healthcare, said.
One Hampton Roads mother says she’s encouraging her kids to practice social distance even more now.
"I am concerned about the variant because I have four children that are in school," Kaneesha Woodson told News 3.
Although there have been no reported cases of the Omicron variant in the United States, both Pfizer and Moderna say they can quickly adjust their vaccine if necessary.