To date, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been found in 20 countries but not the US, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday.
“Confirmed cases as of yesterday were 205 in 18 countries and just this morning this has increased to 226 in 20 countries, and I think you would expect those numbers to change quickly. . The important thing is that it remains undetected in the United States,” Fauci said during a White House briefing on the pandemic.
Fauci said the Omicron looks very different from the Delta variant that currently dominates.
“This mutation profile is very different from other variants of interest and concern. And although some mutations are also found in Delta, this is not Delta. It’s something different. And these mutations are associated with increased transmission and immune evasion, while others remain undetermined for their functional capacity,” he said.
“Obviously, when you look at the molecular profiles of those particular variants, it clearly suggests that there is an increase in transmissibility compared to the original pandemic virus, but it is difficult to infer a relationship. relationship between this transmission and Delta. While you might suggest it could be more, we don’t know until we see how the dynamics of this develop,” he added.
Although the variant carries many mutations, Fauci said, the vaccine at least has the potential to protect people against severe disease, even if the variant doesn’t stimulate the immune system like older variants do, Fauci said. .
“What about the effectiveness of the vaccine? It is clear that the neutralization titre can be significantly reduced. And we say that because the mutations show immune avoidance. But keep in mind that, as with other variants, although partial immune escape may occur, vaccines, and especially boosters, provide a level of antibody that even with variants like Delta also gives you a degree of protection, especially against serious illness. So there’s every reason to believe when we’re talking about boosters, when you get high enough that you’ll get at least some degree of cross protection, especially against serious illness. ,” he said.
Fauci continued: “What about the severity of the illness? Again, these are estimates, and with a small number of cases, it is difficult to know if this particular variant leads to severe disease. Although some preliminary information from South Africa shows no unusual symptoms associated with the variant, we do not know and it is too early to say.