Omicron variant found in 20 countries, but not yet in the US, says Fauci

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has been found in 20 countries so far, but not yet in the United States, Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden and director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday.

“Yesterday the confirmed cases were 205 in 18 countries and this morning it has risen to 226 in 20 countries, and I think you are going to expect to see those numbers change quickly. It’s important to note that it has yet to be detected in the United States, ”Fauci said during a White House briefing on the pandemic.

Fauci said Omicron is very different from the now dominant Delta variant.

“This mutational profile is very different from other variants of interest and concern. And while some mutations are also found in Delta, it is not Delta. It is something different. And these mutations have been associated with increased transmissibility and immune evasion, while other mutations have yet to be characterized in terms of their functional capacity, ”he said.

“Obviously when you look at the molecular configuration of these particular variants, it strongly suggests that there is increased transmission compared to the original pandemic virus, but it is difficult to infer what the relationship is between this transmissibility and Delta. While you may suggest it could be more, we don’t know until we see the dynamics of how it is evolving, ”he added.

Fauci said that although the variant carries many mutations, the vaccines are likely to at least protect people against serious disease, even though the variant does not boost the immune system in the same way as the older variants.

“What about the effectiveness of the vaccine? Obviously, significant reductions in neutralizing titers are possible. And we say this because the mutations suggest immune breakout. But remember, as with other variants, although partial immune breakout can occur, vaccines, and especially boosters, give a level of antibodies that, even with variants like Delta, give you a boost. degree of protection, especially against serious diseases. So there is every reason to believe, when we talk about boosters, that when you get a level high enough to get at least some degree of cross-protection, especially against serious illnesses, ”he said.

Fauci continued, “And what about the severity of the disease? Again, these are estimates and with a small number of cases it is very difficult to know whether or not this particular variant will lead to serious illness. While some preliminary information from South Africa does not suggest any unusual symptoms associated with the variant, we do not know and it is too early to tell.

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