Dr. Anthony Fauci on Sunday warned that the new Omicron variant is “troublesome” because it contains mutations that could evade immunity from past infections and vaccines.
The White House chief medical adviser said several concerning mutations have been identified in the variant, which was first discovered in South Africa by scientists.
“Right now, what we have is we have the window into the mutations that are in this new variant. And they are troublesome in the fact that there are about 32 or more variants in that very important spike protein of the virus, which is the business end of the virus,” Fauci told NBC anchor Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.”
Fauci explained that “the profile of the mutations strongly suggests that it’s going to have an advantage in transmissibility.
“And that it might evade immune protection that you would get, for example, from the monoclonal antibody or from the convalescent serum after a person’s been infected and possibly even against some of the vaccine-induced antibodies,” he said.
“So it’s not necessarily that that’s going to happen, but it’s a strong indication that we really need to be prepared for that.”
Fauci added that another concern is the explosion of new cases in South Africa, which had previously had a “low level of infection” before scientists detected Omicron there.
“So it clearly is giving an indication that it has the capability of transmitting rapidly. That’s the thing that’s causing us now to be concerned but also to put the pressure on ourselves now to do something about our preparation for this,” he said.
Fauci called on Americans to get vaccinated and receive boosters for protection.
“It may not be as good in protecting against initial infection, but it has a very important impact on diminishing the likelihood that you’re going to get a severe outcome from it,” he said.
“So this is a clarion call as far as I’m concerned of saying, let’s put aside all of these differences that we have and say, if you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you’re fully vaccinated, get boosted, and get the children vaccinated, also. We now have time.”
The World Health Organization said Friday that Omicron was a “variant of concern.”
Omicron is believed to be more infectious than previous variants, although experts do not know yet if it will cause more severe cases of COVID-19 compared to other strains.
The variant has already been also detected in Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Belgium, Botswana, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong.