White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that a vaccine specifically targeting the omicron variant of the coronavirus would be “prudent.”
Fauci said it “makes sense to think in terms of at least having ready an omicron specific boost.”
“We may not need it … but I think it’s prudent to at least prepare for the possibility that this may be a persistent variant that we may have to face – even if it’s at a very low level,” Fauci told MSNBC.
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While scientists have projected that new variants of concern would emerge in coming weeks, the nation’s top infectious disease expert also said that after a while there will be enough “background immunity” such that even if new variants emerge “they don’t take that surge effect that we’ve seen with the four, now five surges that we’ve seen since early 2020.”
The more people who are vaccinated and are boosted, the “less the likelihood … [of] variants that keep challenging us,” he noted.
Dr. Anthony Fauci waits to testify at a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Capitol Hill on June 23, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)
When it comes to the complete eradication of COVID-19, Fauci said he “[doesn’t] think there’s a chance” we will do so.
“We’ve only done that with one virus and that’s been smallpox,” he noted.
Fauci said if the U.S. can whittle down coronavirus to a level “where it doesn’t really challenge us and threaten us from a public health standpoint, that would be an acceptable, quote ‘living with the virus.’”
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He also told the network that nearly 100% of new COVID-19 cases are now omicron-related.
Earlier Tuesday, Pfizer and BioNTech said they had begun clinical trials for an omicron-specific version of their vaccine.
On CNN Monday night, Fauci said the omicron surge is beginning to go in the “right direction,” though noting that there’s still a considerable amount of activity in the southern and western U.S.
“We project that in the next week or two – or more – we’re going to start seeing the same peak and coming down,” he explained, with a timeframe for livable conditions amid COVID remaining “very difficult to predict.”
According to Fauci, the “best-case scenario” is that, with the tools at the nation’s disposal, the spread can be kept down – with hospitalizations down to “around the level of other respiratory diseases that we’ve been accepting year after year as not disruptive of our society.”
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows the U.S. saw more than a million cases and nearly 2,000 new deaths in the past day.
While some state health leaders have reported hospitalizations and cases falling this month, many other states have seen increasing case rates.
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The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (IDHW) activated Crisis Standards of Care on Monday in some southern Idaho health districts due to severe staff and blood shortages.
In Seattle, hospitalizations have reportedly reached a breaking point.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.