The "stealth" omicron variant that has recently surfaced does not look like anything that is "dramatically different" from other versions, but it does bear watching, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told Newsmax on Friday.
"[It has] the same symptoms, same severity, as far as we know," Jha told "Wake Up America." "We have got to get more data on this, but so far, it's not looking like anything dramatically different."
Scientists are calling the latest version BA.2, and it has been widely been considered to be more stealthy than the original omicron variant, as particular genetic traits are making it more difficult to detect. There are also fears the variant could be more contagious than the original omicron, which is responsible for almost all new COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to health experts.
Meanwhile, Moderna has announced it is in the second phase of testing its omicron-specific booster, but Jha said Friday he does not know if that will be needed.
"When delta showed up, basically, there was an effort to build a delta-specific variant vaccine, but we didn't end up needing it," Jha said. "The original vaccine works just fine, and so we never ended up needing it. I don't know if we're going to end up needing this. We'll have to see what the clinical trial data show.
"Personally, I am skeptical that we'll need it, but I'm going to be guided by the data. If the data shows that somehow it provides even greater protection, then maybe we'll want to use it for certain populations. But the current vaccines are working so well that it's got a high bar to clear in terms of trying to use a variant-specific vaccine."
The doctor, meanwhile, said he does think it is "very reasonable" to keep mask requirements in the nation's schools, particularly in locations where there are surges of coronavirus still going on.
"I've advocated for masks in schools," he said. "I've also advocated that once surges subside, and when infection numbers get low, I think it's reasonable to pull them off, and obviously this is going to be a local decision because the conditions vary from community to community and from state to state."
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