December 7, 2021 – Test tubes and animals are underway to determine if the new Omicron variant coronavirus may promote immune protection against vaccination or previous infection.
Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said test results for handicapped and live Omicron viruses mixed with serum – pure blood – of vaccinated or previously infected people should be ready next week.
The results of these tests should give us a better idea of how well Americans could be protected from the new threat of this highly mutated variant.
Fauci, speaking at a briefing by the White House COVID-19 response team, said the data showed that the Omicron variant quickly became the leading cause of new COVID-19 infections in South Africa.
“It strongly suggests the dominant ability of that variant over others,” he said.
The situation in South Africa is not exactly the same as what is happening in the US. South Africa has failed to vaccinate as many people as the United States. Even with these differences, Fauci says the picture in South Africa says a lot about Omicron’s escape to spread and his potential to cause an increase in new cases in this country.
These new cases may not be as serious as we have seen in Alpha or Delta. Early evidence of severity is encouraging.
“It’s too early to determine the exact severity of the disease … but it seems that with the cases we see, we don’t see a very serious profile of the disease,” he said.
Fauci said the hospitalization rate for omicron cases is lower than it was in previous variants, and patients who end up in the hospital appear to be less likely to need oxygen.
But he warned that the data could be biased because the earliest cases in South Africa were recorded in younger people, who have less serious cases anyway.
“Let’s hope we get a very clear picture in the next few weeks,” he said.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said teams working to monitor the spread of Omicron after the big Anime 2021 conference in New York were able to contact about 35,000 of the 53,000 people estimated to have attended.
“Data from this investigation is likely to provide some of the earliest views in this country on the portability of this variant,” she said.
Meanwhile, Omicron is not waiting. So far, it has appeared in 17 countries and more than 50 countries around the world.