Nov 28, 2021 - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Asked if Omicron has been found in the U.S. yet, Fauci said it has not, "and we have a pretty good surveillance system."

  • "But as we all know, when you have a virus that has already gone to multiple countries, inevitably it will be here. The question is: Will we be prepared for it?"
  • "The preparation that we have ongoing for ... the Delta variant just needs to be revved up ... by getting more and more people vaccinated, and getting the fully vaccinated boosted."
  • "If and when, and it's going to be when, it comes here, hopefully we will be ready for it by enhancing our capabilities via vaccine, masking — all the things that we do, and should be doing."

He also said the variant looked likely to be highly transmissible, but officials need more data.

  • "It has the molecular characteristics that would strongly suggest that it would be transmissible," Fauci said.
  • "It has a disturbingly large number of mutations in the spike protein, which is the business end of the virus." Fauci said that binds "to the receptors in your body — in your nose ... and in your lung."
  • "The mutation would strongly suggest that it would be more transmissible and that it might evade ... perhaps even antibodies that are induced by vaccine."

Fauci said cases in southern Africa suggest "transmissibility advantage." But for now, he said, that's unknown.

  • Fauci praised South African officials for being "incredibly good about being so transparent ab0ut what's going on there."

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