‘Encouraging’ feedback on the seriousness of Omicron: Dr Fauci

‘Encouraging’ feedback on the seriousness of Omicron: Dr Fauci

Early indications of the severity of the Omicron COVID-19 variant are “a little encouraging,” but more information is still needed, according to senior US pandemic adviser Dr Anthony Fauci.
Reports from South Africa, where it emerged and is becoming the dominant strain, suggest hospitalization rates have not increased alarmingly.

“While it’s too early to really make definitive statements on this, so far it doesn’t appear that there is a great degree of seriousness,” Fauci said.

“So far the signals are a little encouraging. But we really have to be careful before we determine that it’s less serious, or doesn’t really cause any serious illness, comparable to Delta. “

Medical experts have pointed out in recent days that the South African population is skewing young cases and that more serious cases could emerge in the coming weeks.

Laboratory tests are underway to determine whether Omicron – a highly mutated strain of the virus – is more transmissible than other strains, resistant to immunity from vaccination and whether the infection is more severe, with results expected in a few weeks.

Omicron in 30 percent of US states

Meanwhile, U.S. health officials said the variant has spread to around a third of U.S. states, but the Delta version makes it more than 99% of cases and leads to an increase in hospitalizations.

At least 15 U.S. states have reported cases of Omicron: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin, according to a Reuters count agency news.

Many cases have involved fully vaccinated people with mild symptoms, although the recall status of some patients is not known.

“I think there is a real risk that we will see a decrease in vaccine effectiveness,” Stephen Hoge, president of vaccine producer Moderna, told ABC News.

“What I don’t know is how important it is,” Hoge added. “Is that going to be the kind of thing we’ve seen with the Delta variant, that in the end the vaccines were still effective, or are we going to see something like a decrease?” 50% efficiency, which would mean we have to restart the vaccine. “

Moderna, like other pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, has already started working to adapt their vaccines as needed.

Cases of the Omicron variant have so far been confirmed in around 40 countries.

Even though Omicron is found to be less dangerous than Delta, it remains problematic, World Health Organization epidemiologist Dr Maria Van Kerkhove told CBS’s Face The Nation.

“Even though we have a large number of mild cases, some of these people will need to be hospitalized,” she said. “They will have to go to intensive care and some people will die… We don’t want that to happen on top of an already difficult situation with Delta circulating around the world. “

Adjust vaccines

COVID-19 vaccine makers are looking to quickly adjust their shots to target Omicron and U.S. regulators have promised rapid reviews, but it could still take months.

Moderna Inc said it could seek US approval for an updated vaccine as early as March, but company officials in televised interviews on Sunday said it would still take time to ramp up the vaccine. production.

U.S. government officials have also been working with vaccine makers Pfizer Inc and Johnson & Johnson on updated shots.

The United States last week imposed a travel ban on South Africa and seven other countries in southern Africa to stem the spread of the variant.

Fauci, chief medical adviser to US President Joe Biden, said he also hopes the United States will lift its ban on travelers from southern African countries within a “reasonable period of time.”

The South African government has complained of being punished – instead of applauded – for discovering the new variant and promptly briefing international health officials.

Fauci praised South Africa for being transparent and said the US travel ban came at a time “when we were really in the dark” and it took time to study the variant. .


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