Appearing on NBC News’ Meet the Press on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned that the newly discovered ‘Omicron’ variant of Covid-19 may evade various forms of immune protection. 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, adding that other mutations could allow it to be more transmissible. Said Fauci: “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.” Fauci added that 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, along with Dr. Francis Collins, National Institutes of Health Director, 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. 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.” Collins added 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. 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.”