Infectious Disease

Omicron cases will “continue to increase in the coming weeks,” warns CDC director

December 15, 2021

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Fauci and Walensky do not report any relevant financial information.

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The Omicron variant, which has been in the US since at least mid-November, has now been confirmed in at least 36 states and more than 75 countries, CDC director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPHsaid Wednesday.

According to Walensky, early data suggests Omicron is more transmissible than the Delta variant, with cases doubling every 2 days.

    Source: Adobe Stock

Source: Adobe Stock.

Rochelle P. Walensky

“When we look at early data on Omicron portability from other countries, we expect the percentage of Omicron cases here in the United States to continue to rise in the coming weeks,” Walensky said during a COVID-19 briefing at the White House .

Currently, about 96% of the country’s new cases are caused by the Delta variant, but Omicron already accounts for about 3% of the cases – a 0.1% increase last week.

Omicron transmission is even higher in some areas of the country. For example, in New York and New Jersey, the CDC estimates that 13% of cases are caused by Omicron, Walensky said.

A CDC report released last week showed that the first 43 patients in the US with identified Omicron infection did not have much reported serious illness. Only one was hospitalized and none died. However, it was also shown that prior vaccination did not prevent infection, as nearly 80% of patients were fully vaccinated, including almost a third who had received a booster.

Still, director of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases Anthony S. Fauci, MD, on Wednesday stressed the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine booster doses, especially against worrying variants like Omicron.

Pfizer and BioNTech recently announced results of an initial laboratory study showing that protection against Omicron was improved after a third dose of their vaccine.

Anthony S. Fauci

“Our booster therapies work against Omicron,” said Fauci during the White House briefing. “No variant-specific booster is required at this point.”

Fauci presented some omicron-specific data, including a study from Rockefeller University that showed that “Omicron has a pretty profound level of neutralization leakage,” he said.

“Those vaccinated with two doses of mRNA who received a booster dose [have] a significant 38-fold increase in neutralizing activity, ”said Fauci.

In a clinical study monitoring the effectiveness of the Pfizer BioNTech primary two-dose line against Omicron, the effectiveness decreased from 80% in the pre-Omicron era to about 33%.

“But note that the anti-hospital efficacy – which is critical – still maintains a 70% efficacy,” said Fauci.

Walensky said the CDC will release data Thursday that will provide “a snapshot” of national and state-level data on the COVID-19 vaccine and booster effectiveness in long-term care residents.

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