The omicron coronavirus variant of COVID-19 is "going to spread widely," and fully vaccinated Americans should get their booster shots now to be ready, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said Monday.
"It's inevitable that, sooner or later, it's going to spread widely because it has at least the molecular characteristics of being highly transmissible," Fauci, also the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABC News' "Good Morning America."
"I would strongly suggest you get boosted now and not wait for the next iteration of [the vaccine], which we may not even need," he also said. "The pharmaceutical companies are preparing to make a specific booster for [omicron], but we may not need that."
"There are no confirmed cases of the variant, which creates mutations in the coronavirus spike proteins, but obviously, we're on high alert," Fauci said.
Omicron is showing a "transmissibility advantage," he added, based on what scientists have observed in southern Africa where the variant was first identified.
"But the extent of that, again, still needs to be worked out," he noted. "We'll know soon."
Early reports indicate that the severity of illness remains unclear, said Fauci, but he added that it's clear that people who have gotten their vaccinations, especially the booster shots, are faring better against COVID-19, so it's a "reasonable assumption" that the vaccines will also allow at least some protection against the omicron variant.
"We don't know exactly what's going on with this new variant," said Fauci. "I would assume, and I think it's a reasonable assumption, that when you get vaccinated and boosted and your [antibody] level goes way up, you're going to have some degree of protection, at least against severe disease."
Booster shots have been authorized for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, and now, anyone over the age of 18 can get a booster dose at least six months after getting the two-dose shots of either one of those, or at least two months after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
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