COVID-19’s New Variant Omicron threat is on the rise, and it seems to be more transmissible, underlining the importance of immunizations or booster doses for Americans, according to US health officials.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s senior medical adviser, said that Omicron “is a loud warning” for people to get vaccinated. Infections are already on the rise in the United States, and more prevention in the wake of the new variation will determine whether Americans are “heading for a dismal or bleaker winter,” he added.
Biden announced last week that US travel to eight African countries, including South Africa, would be limited beginning Monday. The White House said Biden will offer an update on the US response to Omicron on Monday after being briefed by his Covid response team and Fauci on Sunday.
Omicron emergence a warning to get booster dose and double vaccinated – Francis Collins
With the detection of Omicron last week in South Africa, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said “there’s no reason to fear, but… a fantastic motive to go get boosted.” Vaccines that have previously worked against mutations may now do so again, he suggested on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Given that history, we think that the current vaccines will most likely be sufficient to provide protection, and that boosters, in particular, will provide that extra layer of protection,” he added.
The Omicron strain has quickly expanded over southern Africa, reaching Europe and Australia.
On ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, Fauci said, “Inevitably it will be” in the United States. “Will we be ready for it?” says the narrator.
The US has yet to stand up a national, comprehensive effort to sequence Covid-19 cases to help detect new variants. Instead, federal officials have largely relied on piecemeal state operations and other private labs to track variants. South Africa, on the other hand, is considered to have advanced genomic sequencing capability.
Omicron’s “molecular characteristics that would strongly suggest that it would be more transmissible,” Fauci said. For now, “we don’t know yet what the level of severity will be” nor how easily the variant evades existing vaccines, he said.
South African officials say early cases suggest symptoms from omicron infections have been mild.
A new, targeted vaccine against Omicron will take “at least three months or so to come into being,” Collins said. He said it’s “a great time” for Americans to get booster shots or initial vaccinations.
“Omicron is one more reason to do this,” Collins said.