US coronavirus: As the Omicron variant sparks concern, experts say it’s time for

“I would hope that within the next week or two weeks, so many of those people will take advantage of the vaccine,” Dr. William Schaffner, a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on Friday. “That will help us in the immediate term. And I would anticipate that, as bad as Omicron might be, our vaccine still will be partially effective.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci echoed Schaffner’s stance on vaccination and boosters as mitigation tools.

“I’m saying this absolutely clearly that if ever there was a reason for unvaccinated people to get vaccinated and for those who have been vaccinated when your time comes up to go and get a booster shot,” Fauci told NBC News’ Lester Holt on Friday.

“The booster shots give you a very, very important edge,” he said, noting that boosters increase the level of antibodies that protect against the virus.

Data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 196 million Americans, or 59% of the US population, was fully vaccinated as of Friday. An additional 37.5 million have received booster shots, the data shows.
On Friday, the US moved to restrict travel from eight mostly southern African countries starting Monday as the World Health Organization deemed Omicron a variant of concern after it was first detected in South Africa. Travel into the US is restricted for those entering from Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa.
What we know about the Omicron variant

Omicron has raised concerns for health officials because there’s a possibility that it could be more contagious than the original coronavirus strain, and it also has a significant number of mutations, the WHO said.

There have been no indications so far that the variant has made its way into the US, Fauci told CNN on Friday.

The CDC said the US variant surveillance system has reliably detected new variants in the past.

“We expect Omicron to be identified quickly, if it emerges in the U.S.,” the agency said in a statement.

After a pandemic that has lasted nearly two years, experts and global leaders are anxious about the impact of Omicron and many nations issued travel bans. Besides South Africa, the newly identified variant has been detected in Botswana, Hong Kong and Belgium.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Friday there was a “high to very high” risk the variant would spread to the Continent.

Vaccine makers are working to determine effectiveness against Omicron

Meanwhile, vaccine makers have disclosed they are taking action to address Omicron’s elevated risk.

Moderna said Friday that it’s working quickly to test the ability of its vaccine to neutralize Omicron, and data is expected in the coming weeks.

The strain includes mutations “seen in the Delta variant that are believed to increase transmissibility and mutations seen in the Beta and Delta variants that are believed to promote immune escape,” Moderna said in a news release.

“The combination of mutations represents a significant potential risk to accelerate the waning of natural and vaccine-induced immunity.”

Moderna explained that if its current vaccine and booster are insufficient against the variant, one possible solution is…

Read More: US coronavirus: As the Omicron variant sparks concern, experts say it’s time for

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