In a statement, CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky said all vaccinated adults should be boosted as long as they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, or as long as they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. received their Johnson & Johnson vaccine for at least two months. since.
“The recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further underscores the importance of the vaccination, boosters and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19,” Walensky said. “Initial data from South Africa suggests increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant. ”
Previous CDC guidelines, last updated on November 19, recommended booster shots for adults 50 and older, and made all adults younger and healthier, ages 18 to 49, eligible for booster injections, but did not recommend them. The agency’s most recent recommendations – recommending boosters for all adults – are identical to recommendations made by the California Department of Public Health a week and a half ago.
The previous and complicated position of the CDC has been criticized by some experts as still being too confusing. Dr Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, called the CDC’s earlier guidelines released in mid-November as “”big mistake. »
While many people have referred to the Delta variant as an “unvaccinated pandemic,” it’s also important to realize that those infected now include vaccinated people whose immunity has waned, Topol wrote with Michael Osterholm, director of the Center. for Infectious Disease Research. and Policy, in an editorial published in the Washington Post.
“Multiple studies have shown that fully vaccinated people can spread the Delta variant. It’s more likely when the vaccine-induced immune response wears off, ”Topol and Osterholm wrote. “Since booster shots greatly reduce symptomatic infections, they could help stem the increased spread that we are experiencing. ”
The CDC’s decision came three days after the World Health Organization identified a new variant in southern Africa as a “variant of concern,” calling it Omicron.
U.S. infectious disease experts have expressed concern about Omicron as its emergence in South Africa has been accompanied by a sharp rise in coronavirus cases, after a period of low levels of infection, suggesting that ‘it is highly transmissible. It is not clear, however, whether Omicron will overtake Delta as the most transmissible variant of the coronavirus.
It will probably take two weeks to find out whether the vaccines would be less effective against the Omicron variant. Laboratory tests are underway. Still, Dr.Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser on the pandemic, “continues to believe that existing vaccines are likely to offer some degree of protection against severe cases of COVID,” the White House said in a statement. communicated.
“I don’t think it’s possible that this [Omicron variant] could completely escape all protection by a vaccine. It may decrease it a bit, but that’s the reason you increase it, ”Fauci said in an interview on ABC.
Fauci reiterated that booster shots for fully vaccinated people offer the strongest protection available against COVID-19 and that it is important that anyone who is unvaccinated – including children 5 years and older – get vaccinated.
During a briefing Monday, Biden described Omicron as “a cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”
“The best protection against this new variant – or any of the existing variants, the ones we have already dealt with – is to get fully vaccinated and receive a booster,” he told reporters.
Biden said he would release a detailed strategy later this week detailing the winter battle plan against COVID-19 – “not with closures and lockdowns, but with vaccinations, reminders, testing and more more widespread” .
“We have made progress in the face of COVID-19. We have moved forward against the Delta variant, and we are now moving forward against the Omicron variant as well, ”said the president.
According to the California Department of Public Health, Omicron “has many mutations in important areas of the virus that impact contagiousness and the ability of the immune system to protect itself from infections. Some of the mutations worry scientists because they are very different from other variants previously detected, and some are similar. “
“We don’t know at this time whether this new variant causes more severe COVID-19 disease than the other variants or how it might impact response to treatment,” state health officials wrote.
Biden said Monday his administration was already working with drug companies to formulate updated vaccines if needed. However, he stressed, “we do not yet believe that further measures will be necessary,” adding that he is not considering further restrictions on travel or business.
Officials from Pfizer and Moderna told CNBC on Monday that work was underway for vaccine versions specifically designed to fight Omicron. Such a vaccine would take a few months to develop, but it is not certain whether it is necessary.
New versions of the COVID-19 vaccines were developed specifically for the beta and delta variants but were never made public because the original vaccination formulas retained their effectiveness against these variants.
The potential threat posed by Omicron further underscores the importance of vaccinating as many people as possible and ensuring adults receive their booster doses as soon as they are eligible, Los Angeles County health officials said. .
“As transmission remains high throughout the county, this extra boost is making a difference,” Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement.
In LA County, 98% of skilled nursing facilities administered booster doses to residents and staff between mid-October and mid-November. During this period, there has been a 63% drop in new coronavirus cases in skilled nursing facilities; County-wide, new cases fell only 6% during that time.
“Obviously the boosters, along with very high immunization coverage with two doses among staff and residents, are making a difference,” Ferrer said.
In LA County skilled nursing facilities, 96% of staff and 90% of residents are fully immunized. All qualified nursing staff were to be fully immunized by the end of September under an order from the public health official.