In the weeks since it was first discovered in Botswana, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has rapidly become the dominant strain of the virus in South Africa, and cases have been discovered in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Although the US has shut down travel from a number of affected African countries, Fauci told ABC News on Sunday that “inevitably it will be here, and the question is, will we be prepared for it?”
“The preparation that we have ongoing … just needs to be revved up,” he continued, “by getting more people vaccinated and getting the fully vaccinated boosted.” Fauci also touted the wearing of face masks as key to preparing for Omicron.
In a separate appearance on NBC News, he described the rise of the Omicron variant as a “clarion call” to get more people vaccinated.
Little is known about Omicron, save for its high number of spike protein mutations, which Fauci said gave the variant “an advantage in transmissibility.” Preliminary information suggests the variant may evade the protection offered by the current crop of vaccines. The first recorded Omicron cases in Botswana occurred in fully vaccinated people, and the European Centre for Disease Control stated on Friday that the new variant might be associated with “a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness and increased risk for reinfections.”
Fauci also touched on these worries on NBC News, telling host Chuck Todd that Omicron “might evade immune protection … possibly even against some of the vaccine-induced antibodies.”
South African governmental adviser Professor Barry Schoub has described the Omicron symptoms as “mild” for “the great majority of the patients” infected with the new Covid-19 strain. “Their symptoms were so different and so mild from those I had treated before,” South African Medical Association chair Dr. Angelique Coetzee told The Telegraph on Saturday.
In his push to get more Americans vaccinated, Fauci has previously described the Alpha, Beta, and Delta variants as “clarion calls” to boost vaccination. Some 59% of the US population is now fully vaccinated, and 21% of these people have received booster doses. Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved a low dose of Pfizer’s vaccine for children aged between five and 11.
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