“We should not be freaking out,” Dr Fauci told CBS on 29 November. “We should be doing the things that we know work when you’re dealing with a pandemic virus. It’s not the time to panic.”
He added: “We should be concerned, and our concern should spur us to do the things that we know work.”
Health officials have said it will likely take two weeks to know more about the variant, including its vaccine response, transmissibility and health impacts.
Omicron was first reported in South Africa last week and has been reported in at least 14 nations, including Canada. The World Health Organization has labeled it a “variant of concern” and said it could pose a “high risk” globally. It has not been detected in the US.
President Joe Biden has also sought to project calm, telling Americans in an address from the White House on Monday that omicron is a “cause for concern, not a cause for panic.”
“We’re going to fight and beat this new variant as well,” he said.
He pointed to widely available vaccines and vigilance among science and health officials.
“The best protection ... is getting fully vaccinated, and getting a booster shot,” he said.
In the “unlikely” event that omicron requires more vaccine response, US health officials “will accelerate their development and deployment, and every available tool,” the president said.
“We do not believe additional measures are needed,” he said, adding that the White House is “already working” to develop “contingency plans” for vaccines and boosters “if needed” with drug manufacturers Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.
Dr Fauci explained that the variant’s high number of mutations suggest it could be more transmissible and potentially “evade some of the immune parameters that we have,” including vaccines and antibody and plasma treatments.
“It appears to be spreading very readily and has a transmission advantage,” he said.
Officials still are determining “whether the people who do get infected have a [severe] form of the disease or whether it’s a light disease or somewhat the same as delta,” he added.
More than 196 million Americans, or nearly 60 per cent of the US population, have received both doses of two-dose Covid-19 vaccines from either Pfizer or Moderna, or the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
And more than 37 million Americans have received a “booster” vaccine dose, including more than 42 per cent of Americans over age 65.
Nearly 70 per cent of the US has received at least one dose.
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