If new Covid-19 vaccines are developed to fight the Omicron variant, public health regulators “will act quickly” to streamline the authorization process, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. tell ABC âThis week with George Stephanopoulosâ Sunday.
Walensky said Omicron infections have been identified in at least dozens of people 16 states, with the number of cases “likely to increase,” but which public health officials hope current vaccines can prevent serious illness and hospitalizations. As of Sunday morning, the new variant had been identified in 40 countries.
âWe know it has a lot of mutations, more mutations than the previous variants,â Walensky said. “What we don’t know yet is how transmissible it will be, how well our vaccines will work, whether it will lead to more serious illness.”
Walensky noted Currently, 99.9% of the approximately 90,000 to 100,000 cases per day in the United States are of the Delta variant of Covid-19.
(ticker: MRNA) Chairman Stephen Hoge said the company is currently working on a specific Omicron booster if necessary, and that it could be ready early next year.
The Omicron variant appears to have caused mild illnesses than previous waves of Covid-19 among a small study of people hospitalized in South Africa, although scientists have warned it is too early to conclude that Omicron is less virulent than other strains.
South Africa reported 16,366 new cases on Saturday, up from around 100 cases per day in early November. Omicron, with dozens of mutations including those linked to faster spread, appears to be more contagious than other variants of Covid and can more easily bypass immunity from previous infections.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Sunday that “so far, although it is too early to really make definitive statements on this, it doesn’t seem not that there is a great degree of seriousness to this. “
According to a study published by the South African Medical Research Council, out of 42 people treated for Covid-19 on Thursday, 70% did not need oxygen to breathe normally. Of those who did, nine had Covid-induced pneumonia and the other four needed supplemental oxygen for underlying unrelated conditions.
Another study from the same hospital group reported that the majority of the 166 coronavirus patients admitted between November 14 and November 29 were unvaccinated and under the age of 50, and most were admitted for reasons other than Covid-19.
“Overall, the disease appeared to be milder, but it is only the beginning,” Willem Hanekom, director of the Africa Health Research Institute, told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Sunday.
A separate study said the Omicron variant appears to have picked up a snippet of genetic code from another virus which causes the common cold in humans, possibly from someone who has been infected with both simultaneously. This raises the possibility that it is more contagious but less virulent than other variants of the coronavirus.
This may have made Omicron “more accustomed to human hosts” and able to evade certain immune system responses, said Venky Soundararajan, a biological engineer who co-authored the study, reported The Washington Post.
This genetic material has not been found in other variants, according to scientists at Nference, a biomedical research company in Cambridge, Mass. The study is preliminary and has not yet been peer reviewed.
Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy said on Sunday that US travel bans against South Africa and seven other neighboring countries were enacted “to buy time” to increase vaccinations and reduce the spread of the Omicron , but that they were meant to be temporary measures.
âNobody wants them to stay longer than necessary,â he said. told CBS “Facing the nation”. âThat’s why we are constantly re-evaluating them so that we can withdraw them as soon as it is appropriate. “
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