The newly discovered Omicron COVID-19 variant may evade forms of immune protection against the virus, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned Sunday. File Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday warned that the newly discovered Omicron variant may evade various forms of immune protection.
Appearing on NBC News' Meet the Press, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was "troublesome" that Omicron features about 32 or more variants in the virus' spike protein, which he described as the "business end of the virus" adding other mutations could allow it to be more transmissible.
"The profile of the mutations strongly suggest that it's going to have an advantage in transmissibility and that it might evade immune protection that you would get, for example, from a monoclonal antibody or from the convalescent serum after a person's been infected and possibly even against some of the vaccine-induced antibodies."
President Joe Biden held a meeting with the White House COVID Response Team Sunday, during which Fauci said it may take two more weeks to have more "definitive information" about the transmissibility, severity and other characteristics of the variant, according to a readout of the conversation.
Fauci and National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins agreed it was likely the variant, which was first identified by scientists in South Africa and has since been identified in Europe and Asia, would be detected in the United States.
"We have no evidence that it's [here now]. So I'm on the fence about that," Collins told CNN's State of the Union. "We will find out because (the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking at tens of thousands of viral isolates every week."
The United States continues to lead the world with totals of 48,207,699 reported COVID-19 cases and 776,578 deaths related to the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University.
The nation has also added 2,226,318 infections and 29,780 fatalities in the past 28 days, according to Johns Hopkins.
Michigan, in particular, has experienced a COVID-19 surge recently with a seven-day moving average of 7,993 new cases as of Tuesday, according to the CDC.
To date, 231,367,686 people, or 69.7% of the total U.S. population, have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 59.1% of the population or 196,168,756 people have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, as all Americans aged 5 and older are eligible for the vaccine.
Also, 37,499,004 people or 19.1% of fully vaccinated Americans have received an additional booster dose, with all people older than 18 eligible to receive one.
Collins on Sunday said that the presence of the Omicron variant should encourage more Americans to get vaccinated or receive a booster dose.
"It's certainly not good news. We don't know yet how much of an impact this will have," he said of the variant. "It ought to redouble our efforts to use the tools that we have, which are vaccinations and boosters, and to be sure we're getting those to the rest of the world too, which the U.S. is doing more than any other country."
Addressing concerns about the efficacy of vaccines to prevent infections from the variant, Collins told Fox News Sunday that it's strength against past variants was encouraging.
"Given that history, we expect that most likely the current vaccines will be sufficient to provide protection," he said. "And especially the boosters will give that additional layer of protection because there's something about the booster that causes your immune system to really expand its capacity against all kinds of different spike proteins, even ones it hasn't seen before."
Collins added that Americans must also continue to observe mitigation strategies that "people are just really sick of" such as wearing face coverings indoors and maintaining physical distance.
"We have to use every kind of tool in our toolbox to keep that from getting in a situation that makes this worse," he said of the variant.