AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Despite this emergency use authorization for the pills, you’re still 20 times more likely to die from COVID complications if you’re unvaccinated.

And if you’re unvaccinated you’re more likely to pass on that virus to your less than healthy grandmother or family member with a chronic illness.

Research shows the COVID-19 vaccine is effective at preventing infection. If you do experience a breakthrough case, you’re less likely to have severe illness or require hospitalization. And now doctors are saying the Omicron variant is here to stay.

Infection with the Omicron variant is often confused with a simple cold. Symptoms include a headache, cough, and sore throat.

Dr. Jose Vazquez with AU Health said, “Omicron is here as you’re well aware and we can’t stop it. What we can do at home, one is if you’re sick, you really should stay home unless you’re tested.”

The Biden Administration plans to make 500 million at home COVID tests available for free.

And rapid antigen tests that only take ten minutes are available at local pharmacies.

“If you want to go visit grandma and grandpa that are not vaccinated and you’ve been vaccinated, just to make sure you can do the rapid test. If you’re negative then you’re clear and people will feel a lot better about that,” said Dr. Vazquez.

Dr. Vazquez says that’s who you get vaccinated for, grandparents, the elderly and the immunocompromised as Omicron cases rise.

Dr. Vazquez said, “If you look at the data across the country, it’s somewhere in the 80 to 90 percent range as far as all the infections.”

He expects COVID cases to rise from Omicron as it is extremely contagious, but not hospitalizations as this variant is much less deadly than delta.

“I think the omicron variant has really been a gift and we’re going to be able to get all those people who are unvaccinated now with antibodies to prevent those people from getting admitted to the hospital if the delta variant comes back,” Dr. Vazquez.

Dr. Vazquez says in Augusta University Health is not testing variants on the molecular level so it is unclear whether or not the Omicron variant is in the area.

He says cases have risen, yet hospitalizations have remained low.